A landmark ruling , in which a decade-old personal injury settlement has been allowed to be re-opened, could lead to thousands of old cases being revised. Joanne Dunhill settled for £12,500 in 2003 for a head injury that she suffered, with the insurance company not accepting liability. However, a new claimant firm took over the case, and argued that she was not of sound mind and that the settlement should not stand. A number of people have said that the decision by the High Court to allow the case to reopen means that similar cases could also be revised in the future.
Joanna Dunhill, now 53, suffered a head injury in 1999 and agreed to an out of court settlement of £12,500 without the insurer admitting liability. Ordinarily, in such instances, this would mean that the case had drawn to a close and no further action would be taken. Courts do not have to be involved in a settlement, and this typically means that the insurer and the claimant agree to a settlement where no liability or blame is agreed. For the claim this can mean access to compensation sooner, and with no lengthy court case, while the insurer typically agrees to pay an amount that they believe would be less than the court would dictate.
Ms Dunhill approached a different claim firm, and following this her new representatives argued in High Court that she was not of sound mind, and therefore not in a position to be able to accept the settlement figure at the time. They have said that she is due significantly more money that she was awarded, and rather than pursue a professional negligence claim, Dunhill’s lawyers have successfully argued that the original case should be re-examined.
The High Court has agreed with the argument, and a court date will be set to determine the new level of compensation that Dunhill will receive. However, lawyers and insurers have met the decision with worry and scepticism, stating that it means thousands of old cases could be reopened. Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, stated that protected parties required protection not only from themselves but from legal advisers too.
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