CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE: £100,000 IN COUNTY COURT ONLY
On 22 April 2014 the minimum level for bringing a non-personal injury claim in the High Court jumped from £25,000 to £100,000, no doubt heralding a move to a fast-track of up to £100,000 with fixed recoverable costs.
The personal injury floor level remained at £50,000 and thus went from being twice the non-personal injury floor to half of it; again the likelihood is of a £50,000 personal injury fast-track with fixed recoverable costs, that is twice the current limit.
There is logic in this as the personal injury small claims limit remains at £1,000, that is just 10% of the general civil litigation limit of £10,000.
However there seems to have been a major error in relation to clinical negligence claims, where the minimum level before such a claim can be brought in the High Court jumped from £25,000 to £100,000 on 22 April 2014.
There was no consultation about this and it appears to have been unintended. Clinical negligence claims were deliberately lumped in with general civil litigation claims so as to keep the minimum level at £25,000, not £50,000, presumably in recognition of the fact that clinical negligence claims are in reality a species of professional negligence rather than personal injury.
Article 5 (1) of the High Court and County Court Jurisdiction Order 1991 provided that a personal injury claim must be commenced in the County Court unless the value of the action is £50,000 or more.
The High Court and County Court Jurisdiction (Amendment) Order 1999 inserted a new article 4A into the 1991 Order, which provided that a money claim may only be commenced in the High Court if the financial value of the claim is more than £15,000 and at Article 6 it repeated (although with slightly different wording) the provision in the 1991 Order requiring the value of a personal injury claim to be £50,000 or more before it can be issued in the High Court.
Clearly the thinking was that any claim with a value above £15,000 was on the face of it sufficiently weighty to justify proceeding in the High Court unless it was a personal injury claim in which event the value had to be £50,000 before it could proceed in the High Court. Therefore, the 1999 Amendment Order at Article 6(b) made it clear that for these purposes clinical negligence claims were to be excluded from the £50,000 requirement. That meant that the threshold for High Court claims (including clinical negligence claims) was £15,000 except for PI claims (excluding clinical negligence claims) where the threshold was £50,000.
Article 2 of the High Courts and County Courts Jurisdiction (Amendment) Order 2009 raised the £15,000 threshold to £25,000 but left the £50,000 higher limit for personal injury cases (excluding clinical negligence cases).
This meant that although a personal injury claim had to be worth more than £50,000 to go in the High Court a clinical negligence claim could be issued with values down to £25,000.
However, the High Court and County Court Jurisdiction (Amendment) Order 2014 at Article 2(7) amends Article 4A of the 1991 Order (as already amended) to substitute £100,000 in place of £25,000.
This means that the High Court jurisdiction for money claims now starts at £100,000. However, the provision in article 5(1) of the 1991 Order that provides a £50,000 threshold for personal injury cases remains intact as does the provision that for this purpose a clinical negligence claim is not a claim for personal injuries.
Therefore a personal injury arising out of a road traffic accident or work place accident or whatever can be brought in the High Court if the claim is worth £50,000 but a clinical negligence claim has to be in excess of £100,000 to be brought in the High Court.
It may be that this was intended; after all other professional negligence claims have jumped from £25,000 to £100,000 as a High Court minimum.
I suspect it was not intended.
Clarification, and if appropriate, an amendment from the Ministry of Justice would be welcome.