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Wembley judge calls for reforms to legal system

Former head of the Technology and Construction Court Lord Justice Jackson has called for reforms to curb the “explosion” of litigation over costs issues.

Lord Justice Jackson - who presided over the long-running Wembley Stadium litigation process – suggested the introduction of fixed recoverable costs.

In his preliminary report for the first in-depth inquiry into civil litigation costs in a decade, he also mooted introducing cost sanctions on witness statements and pleadings, saying: “One of the banes of TCC litigation is duplication of documents.”

His 650-page report presented a damning picture of a system beset by soaring legal fees disproportionate to the damages recouped by claimants.

He said: “There has been an explosion of litigation about costs issues, which has added a further layer to the costs of litigation.”

Lord Justice Jackson spent years presiding over the Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge Wembley saga in which costs totalled more than £22 million and, he said, neither side “gained any significant financial benefit”.

Dundas & Wilson partner Hamish Lal said the construction sector would be especially interested in a proposal that pre-action process should only start after a claim form was issued.

Mr Lal said: “The biggest carrot is the fact that the costs incurred by both the parties become part of the costs of the action.”

Currently pre-action costs are ordinarily irrecoverable and it is believed the plan to change this will garner strong industry support.

Consultation on the report will run until 31 July.

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