Lord Dyson suggests that idea of ‘compensation culture’ does not match what happens in court

Master of the Rolls and the head of civil justice, Lord Dyson has said that the perception of the ‘compensation culture’ does not match what happens in court.

Speaking at the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s annual law lecture, Lord Dyson said that the courts have not ‘lowered the hurdles’ for the claimants.

He added that claimants are often discouraged from going to court because of ‘exorbitant’ legal fees and that lawyers should do everything they can to ‘explode the false perception of compensation culture’.

Continuing with his outspoken speech, Dyson said:

Our courts are well aware of the dangers of contributing to the idea that all injuries should result in compensatory awards.

The law is fault-based. It requires a claimant to establish a duty of care, breach and causation of loss. These are not always straightforward matters and if a claimant fails to establish any one of them, his claim fails.

He went on to cite examples of the courts and justice systems rejecting claims, one of which was Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council, where the House of Lords rejected a claim after the claimant broke his neck after driving into a flooded quarry.

Another example he used was the 36 claims against McDonalds, which were all rejected, for personal injuries caused by hot drinks.

His examples showed the courts taking a ‘robust, common sense approach’ to claims for compensation which is not consistent with the idea of a compensation culture.

Dyson did agree that a belief that the law should grant compensation for any accident will likely lead to people, businesses and government acting differently.

He concluded that the ‘obvious solution’ to this problem is to introduce ‘reasonable and proportionate’ fixed legal costs.

He said:

Our government is taking a long time to grasp this nettle. The laws of competition and the market place seem to be helpless in resisting the rising tide of the cost of litigating. Many would-be litigants simply cannot afford to go to court.

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