In what is sure to become the norm over the coming weeks, given current Government advice restricting travel and contact due to the COVID-19 virus, David Knifton QC and Pankaj Madan from Exchange Chambers have successfully concluded what is believed to be the first Joint Settlement Meeting using video-link technology.
The case involved a severe brain injury to a young man in a road traffic accident, leaving him with significant cognitive and behavioural impairments. The case was complicated by the fact that he had a history of difficult childhood experiences, a poor educational record, and significant drugs involvement from his teens.
As a result, the Defendant’s insurers contended that, regardless of the accident, the Claimant was unlikely to have maintained regular employment or a lasting relationship with a partner, and that his drug use and offending behaviour would have continued. Although it was agreed that he had a lifelong need for case management and support, following a period of multi-disciplinary rehabilitation, the Defendant’s experts raised significant concerns that the Claimant would not engage with such support, due to his impulsivity, disinhibition, impaired emotional control and chaotic lifestyle.
David Knifton QC explained: “When our Schedule of Loss was served, including a substantial claim for future support and therapies, the Defendant’s insurers cancelled a previous JSM in December 2019 at short notice, to the obvious disappointment of the client. Upon reconsideration, they had agreed to meet us for a JSM at our Leeds Chambers this week. Once the Government advice concerning coronavirus was changed, a meeting in person was no longer sensible. Fortunately, we have excellent video-conferencing facilities, which enabled us to proceed with a ‘virtual’ JSM, with a very successful outcome.”
Pankaj Madan described the technology used: “As a multi-site chambers we have had the benefit of this technology for years and we are well practised using it. I created 3 meeting rooms, one for our Solicitors and us, another room which also included our client, Litigation Friend and Case Manager and another room for Counsel including our opponent to talk to each other. My Leader and I had a video connection whereby we talked to each other. The system works on nearly any equipment provided it has a camera and a microphone including a tablet and a smartphone. Anybody not comfortable with using video, however, can dial into the room using a telephone and pin code. It’s easy to use, secure and professional. We are delighted to have achieved a great settlement for our client and Solicitors.”
The use of such technology resulted in the negotiation of a successful settlement of £3.8m, subject to Court approval. It is anticipated that the approval hearing will likewise be conducted by video-link.
David Knifto QC and Pankaj Madan were instructed by Mark Hollinghurst, Ewan Bain and Julie Wilkinson of Switalskis Solicitors.