The £1 Question and the QOCS Protection Puzzle

The case of  Clark & Ors v Adams & Anor [2024] EWHC 62 (KB), involved three Claimants who suffered injuries in bombing incidents attributed to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). The Claimants sought damages against Mr. Gerry Adams and the PIRA, alleging his involvement as a leading member of the organization.

The claim, commenced in May 2022, faced unique challenges due to the introduction of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023, which restricted certain civil actions related to the Troubles. However, one of the key issues examined was the application of QOCS protection.

Understanding QOCS Protection

QOCS is a legal regime preventing a successful Defendant from enforcing costs orders against the Claimant in personal injury cases. The Claimants in this case specifically limited their damages claim to a nominal sum of £1 for vindicatory purposes. According to CPR 44.13-44.14, QOCS protection applies to proceedings that included a claim for damages for personal injuries. However, it is essential to note that QOCS protection could be disapplied under certain circumstances, such as when the proceedings were struck out for specific reasons (CPR 44.15).

The Arguments Presented

The primary contention in this case was whether the claim, seeking a nominal sum for vindicatory purposes, fell within the scope of QOCS protection. The First Defendant, argued that the claim was not for damages for personal injuries as the torts of assault and battery were actionable, without proof of damage. Furthermore, they argued the Claimants' solicitors explicitly “disavowed” a claim for general and special damages in their correspondence.

In response, the Claimants, argued that the claim was for damages for personal injuries, albeit limited to a nominal sum. The Claimant emphasised the broad interpretation of the term 'damages for personal injuries' (as per CPR 44.13(1)(a) and argued that the focus should be on whether it was a claim for damages, irrespective of the amount claimed.

Court's Consideration and Conclusion

In reaching their conclusion, the Court had to determine whether the claim fell within the ambit of QOCS protection. The judge considered the pleadings, which alleged assault and battery causing personal injury, as meeting the necessary ingredients for a claim for damages for personal injury. The judge rejected arguments that the claim's characterisation was defeated by the fact that assault/battery is actionable without proof of damage, the absence of a claim for substantial damages, or the statement that the nominal sum was claimed 'for vindicatory purposes.'

In conclusion, the case raised important questions about the application of QOCS protection in unique circumstances, emphasising the need for a nuanced understanding of the legal principles involved.

The full case can be found here.

For more information contact Karl Robson here.

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