The UK’s Supreme Court today said solicitors claiming refunds for delayed and cancelled flights have a right to claim any legal costs from clients.
Legal experts speaking to City A.M. said the Supreme Court ruling, which allows law firms to cover their legal costs using refunded money, is likely to embolden solicitors and lead to a boom in the number of law firms providing flight refund services.
In a legal battle between Cheshire based law firm Bott & Co and aviation giant Ryanair, the Supreme Court said there does not have to be a legal dispute, in order for a solicitor’s firm to have a right to a “lien,” which allows a law firm to cover their own legal fees using any winnings.
The ruling means that law firms, such as Bott & Co, are able to claim a “lien,” even if the only work they have done is simply claiming a refund for a delayed flight – and no legal dispute has been brought forward.
Speaking to City A.M. Bryan Shacklady, a senior solicitor at Forsters, explained the Supreme Court ruling will “embolden” law firms, and give them “more confidence” they will be paid for any work they do in claiming refunds, as he suggested the ruling may “make solicitors more willing to do this kind of work”.
“Firstly, it gives lawyers more certainty they’ll be paid for this kind of work, and secondly it means claims are more likely to be brought,” Shacklady said.
The lawyer said that on the upside, the ruling may “widen access to justice,” as any boom in the number of law firms working to claim refunds on a no win, no fee basis would likely lead to a rise in the number of successful refunds.
However, Shacklady said such a boom in solicitors firms claiming refunds from airlines will also result in more people paying for a service that they “could well do themselves.”
Shacklady noted that the majority of work done by law firms such as Bott & Co in claiming refunds is carried out by automated robots. “There’s no human intervention until very late in the day,” the lawyer noted.
He added that the decision sits in line with a longer-term trend towards keeping dispute resolution out of court, with a view to reducing the pressure on the UK’s court system and cutting the court backlog.
The Supreme Court ruling comes as the UK justice system has increasingly sought to push people towards mediation. It also comes ahead of government plans to allow for no-fault divorce.