A client of a neighbour of mine, who is a professional, had a complaint made against him by a client who was put up to it by a claim company, which I turn had been supplied, possibly illegally but certainly unscrupulously, with information by a solicitor. For the privilege of having the claim adjudicated by the relevant authority, my neighbour had to pay £500 – non-refundable, whatever the result of the adjudication.
In the event, the adjudicator found that the complaint was without foundation and did not uphold it. Indeed, he went further: he said in his judgment that he failed to see how the complainant’s legal advisor could have maintained certain things contrary to the evident facts. He as good as accused him of lying.
My neighbour was pleased by the judgment, but till he was out of pocket by £500 for no good reason. In addition, he had been caused anxiety and waste of time. The complainant lost nothing except his time which was probably otherwise unoccupied in any case.
Natural justice required that he at least reimbursed my neighbour his £500, even at the cost of hardship to himself. But we have encouraged a society of costless complaint (costless, that is, to the complainant), the better to hand authority and give employment to adjudicating bodies. This simultaneously sours tempers and increases costs: for, of course, my neighbour will recover his £500 by charging future clients more. Complaint free at the point of use (for the complainant) has to be paid for by someone else.
My neighbour’s case is a small example of what is wrong with our tort system, many of which are settled not because wrong has been done, but because it is cheaper to settle than to fight. It is, in effect, worse than a blackmailer’s charter, for at least blackmail is a crime, whereas making a false or unjustified claim, however outrageous, is without cost to him who makes it.
Every litigant should have something to lose and claim companies should be prohibited. Quite often I am telephoned by such companies to say they know that I have been involved in an accident and may have a claim for compensation. This is quite clearly dishonest but I suppose must be profitable, or it wouldn’t be done.
What is needed in this case is a restraint on trade, where the trade is alleged tort. Natural justice requires such restraint.
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