On Appeal to the Leeds County Court
The Issues: A Claimant had union membership and an existing before the event ("BTE") legal expenses insurance policy, both of which protected her against the costs of her claim. She had pursued her claim with the benefit of her union membership. Should she have taken advantage of her BTE insurance policy, rather than have used her trade union membership.
The question was important because the union were seeking a Part 30 'insurance' contribution as permitted by the Access to Justice Act 1999. If the BTE route had been followed, the defendant's insurers would not be required to pay the insurance contribution as a disbursement.
Held: The court decided that the effect on the defendant in this instance was irrelevant and that the question to ask was whether it was in the claimant's best interests to use her union's assistance and whether her choice was reasonable. It held that:
' It is entirely reasonable for the claimant to avail herself of the union's assistance in this type of case for the simple reason that she is not bound to take too much account of costs to the defendant, and it was reasonable in the first instance for her to seek the assistance of her union...'.
The judgment went on to say:
' I would find it difficult to envisage any circumstances where a union member would be regarded as unreasonable to have gone to the union. Just because it is cheaper to the paying party does not make it the only choice and I have no doubt that the claimant made a reasonable choice.'
Comment: This is an important decision for unions who rely heavily on their Part 30 receipts to fund their assistance activities.