Court of Appeal rules out fixed fees for armed forces claims

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A Court of Appeal ruling has stated that the fixed success fee regime does not apply to claims brought forward by members of the armed forces who are injured during the course of their service.

Three members of the military – Adam Broni, Simon Woof and Raphael Barbour – brought claims against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after suffering an injury during training, arguing that the fixed success fee regime did not apply to their cases as they could not be classified as being employees.

Each of them had lost their cases based on the civil procedure rules definition of an employee.

However, after taking their cases to the Court of Appeal, the original decisions were overruled. The Law Society Gazette has reported that when delivering his verdict, Mr Justice Supperstone said that there was no good reason for giving the words ‘contract of service’ a broader meaning. He also said that there was no ambiguity in what the term ‘employee’ means.

Hilary Meredith, the director of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and armed forces claims specialist told Claims Magazine that the judgement was “absolutely spot on”.

“These cannot be classed as EL cases,” she said.

“Military cases face unique challenges to their claims such as combat immunity arguments which cost money to fight that non military cases do not have to contend with.

“It’s my view that to subject these cases to a fix fee regime is tantamount to a breach of the military covenant and is not what was intended by the repeal of s10 of the Armed Forces Crown Proceedings Act back in 1987, which purpose was to place military personnel on an equal footing as civilians if they are injured.

“Subjecting them to fixed fees would create such an imbalance as to prejudice access to justice for this very deserving claimant group.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk