Sunday, 10 July 2011

Criminalise The Compo Community

Agents of destruction in the bog

You won't read this here often, so cherish it. We need a law against this type of thing!

A friend operates a contract cleaning company and is currently having to waste their time defending a claim from one of life's bottom-feeders. His solicitor was laughing as he described how the case has no chance of succeeding, but the defence fees have to be paid, and the company is forced to waste resources on it.

The charge?

A customer at a store handled by said friend's company has sued for compensation to rectify - and I quote - "chlorine gas inhalation which harmed throat and lungs after urinating on a sanitiser block".

No. Don't laugh (OK, just a little bit then) as I'm not making this up and it's not bloody funny for the very small business which is exposed to such nonsense.

Mrs P works for a large company which employs an entire department tasked solely with tackling frivolous claims like this in a different sector, so it's not an inconsequential problem.

If you ever wondered how it is that kids are left to die for spurious reasons; why school trips are now routinely denied; why your insurance is ever-inflating, and yes; why insignificant risks are ramped up out of all proportion, it's because of odious compo-chasers like the one above.

Hey, I'm libertarian. I favour personal responsibility. So let's have a law which says that if you are truly harmed because of the negligence of others, you have full rights to a hefty payout.

If, however, your claim is shown to be hideously frivolous, you should do jail time commensurate with the cost imposed on those companies which are forced to expend resources as a result of your selfish and lazy rent-seeking.

Fair's fair.


Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

Yes, totally agree DP - let's start the ball rolling, say, for every £1,000 spent, 1 proper year in jail.

Simon Cooke said...

I believe that Mr Shakespeare just about nailed it:

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Angry Exile said...

... but the defence fees have to be paid, and the company is forced to waste resources on it.

And there's the problem, right there. It should be clear from the outset that there's a downside to bringing a losing case, and that's that you will be expected to pick up the bill and your ability to pay is not the problem of the winning side. Bankruptcy until the debt is paid should be the obvious option for the chancers, and court orders to work the debt off at whatever rate the company is prepared to pay should be considered if there's no other way. Indentured labour? Yes, it is sort of, but putting yourself in that position in the first place by bringing a bullshit law suit is not compulsory.

Alternatively what about competing courts? A fantasy of course, because the legal profession would never stand for the end of their monopoly. But if you've ever read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress you'll probably remember how much better, quicker and cheaper the court system seemed to work when both sides could just shop around until they found a court and a judge they could both agree on.

Anonymous said...

Can't the existing system hammer a chancer or two now, as a warning?

I seem to remember a recent case in the USA about a pair of dry cleaned trouser where the plaintive (a lawyer) was suing a Korean dry cleaner for millions and got taken to the cleaners in court.

Nigel Sedgwick said...

How about a counter-claim: misdirected urination leading to atmospheric pollution with a well-known contaminant, together with misappropriation/misuse of valuable hygiene-enhancing chemical blocks - and consequent uninsurable risk of third-party infection.

Best regards

nisakiman said...

Unfortunately it's an all too common situation. My last business in UK had a claim made against it, and the loss adjustor from the insurance company agreed it was a baseless claim but said they would give the claimant a thousand quid because it was cheaper than defending in the courts. I was outraged, but had to defer.

Dick Puddlecote said...

BoGbG: Yes, an applicable tariff will have to be set. As an opening gambit, yours may be on the harsh side. ;)

AE: Astute, as always. How many would opt for Judge Judy, I wonder?

Anon: Difficult with no win/no fee outfits shouldering the risk.

Nigel: That's class. I'll suggest it to him. :)

Nisakiman: Same with Mrs P's firm, they apparently routinely pay out in most cases without investigation, the average being IRO £5k. It's just not cost effective for them below that figure.

Ian R Thorpe said...

A few judges who actually decide a case by condidering its merits rather than following official guidelines would help too.

Nobody is allowed to make a decision these days, that have to follow procedure,

Anonymous said...

"£1,000 spent, 1 proper year in jail."

Hardly cost-effective as it'll cost over £40K a year to keep compo monkeys in gaol.

How about 10 lashes per £1000 spent?

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

It's a given isn't it? - that the plaintiff is either dim as... or they're a paid stooge for the solicitor(s) bringing the action.

On the no win no fee side - I understand that lawyers can insure against failure in many cases. This facility must be eradicated. At the moment there's a lot of no-win no fee that's actually win-win... With the car insurance claim / legal stuff thing reaching ludicrous heights it clear that there's a deeply unhealthy relationship between insurance companies and lawyers that's being paid for by ... us.

A start would be to name both the lawyer and the plaintiff every time the case is mentioned - and in that order. Just to get the idea of what's being attempted clear in folk's minds - a start surely?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Steve Shark: You are a harsh taskmaster. ;)

Gordon: That could almost read like a private member's bill. Top idea.

Anonymous said...

Would it not be far simpler to make the lawyers who promote a stupid claim pay the fees?

I suspect that this would rapidly cause stupid claims to dry up completely.

JuliaM said...

It's this fear of claims that causes hard and fast rulings to be laid down, and an inability to use judgement and initiative in situations.

Slowly, and surely, we all become sheep as a result...

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with Junican.

Make the ambulance chasers pay all parties legal fees if and when they loose.

I suspect the amount of vexatious litigation would then drop drastically.

James Higham said...

Quite like the idea of the accuser getting what the other would have got.

Angry Exile said...

DP, I think Judge Judy is bloody awful TV but I do kind of like the free market dispute resolution to it. The only daft thing about, apart from being on TV, it is that when Judge Judy 'fines' someone to pay compensation to whoever for whatever it's actually the TV company that pays it. Or so I'm told. Other than that it's got a bit going for it.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

the lawyers don't like being named, not one bit ... Private members bill? - not a bit of it, you just get Newsquest / BBC to adjust their editorial guidelines - that'd do the trick.

They also don't like being called ambulance chasing scumbuckets either, I'm the proud possessor of a letter from one threatening libel ;-)