ANOTHER CHANGE IN THE RULES ON APRIL 6th: PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS CAN SAY GOODBYE (IN SOME CASES) TO THE ADMIRALTY COURT

The focus on the new rules on QOCS coming into force on the 6th April may lead to losing sight of some other changes. In particular the new rules and amendments to the Practice Direction in relation to accidents at sea or which would hitherto have involved the Admiralty Court. The mandatory requirement to use the Admiralty Court has been reduced, otherwise the Court should be used only where the circumstances of the case require its specialist expertise.

 

THE OLD PART 61

CPR 61.(2)(1)(a)(v) used to impose a mandatory obligation to issue in the Admiralty Court where a claim was “for loss of life or personal injury…”.

Amendment of Part 61

Part 61 has been amended

33.—(1) In rule 61.1(2)(b), for “Queen’s” substitute “King’s”.

(2) In rule 61.2—

(a)in paragraph (1)(a), omit paragraph (v); and

(b)in paragraph (2), after “started in the Admiralty Court”, insert and a claim for loss of life or personal injury specified in section 20(2)(f) of the Senior Courts Act 1981(12) should be started in the Admiralty Court in the circumstances set out in Practice Direction 61”.

NEW ADDITIONS TO PRACTICE DIRECTION 61

There are new provisions that limit the circumstances in which a claimant must issue in the Admiralty Court and which allow personal injury proceedings to be issued in the county court.  A personal injury action that arises out of a collision between vessels must be issued in the Admiralty Court. In other cases proceedings should be issued in the Admiralty Court only if “they require or would benefit from the specialist knowledge and experience of that court”.

 

2.6 A personal injury or fatal accident claim must be commenced in the Admiralty Court if it is made in rem or if it arises out of a collision; see CPR rules 61.2(1)(a)(i) and (ii).

2.7 Personal injury and fatal accident claims falling within section 20(2)(f) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 made in personam, if commenced in the High Court, may be commenced in the Admiralty Court.  Under its tort and contract jurisdiction and its jurisdiction to determine claims for sums recoverable under statute conferred by sections 15 and 16 of the County Courts Act 1984 respectively, such claims may also be commenced in the County Court.

2.8 Claims within paragraph 2.7 should not be commenced in the Admiralty Court unless they require or would benefit from the specialist knowledge and experience of that court.  That is likely to include personal injury claims—

(a) which involve questions of navigation, seamanship, boat or ship-handling skills and/or acts or omissions relating to sea state;

(b) which arise out of the shipwreck, capsizing or stranding of the ship, or explosion or fire in the ship;

(c) which are employer’s liability claims relating to or concerning equipment or working practices peculiar to a ship;

(d) which raise difficult or novel questions of private international law or of the interpretation of the Athens Convention. Other personal injury claims not raising any such issues should ordinarily be commenced in the County Court or the Central Office of the King’s Bench Division of the High Court.

2.9 Where a personal injury or fatal accident claim in personam has been commenced in the Admiralty Court but, at any stage, it appears that it may be more efficiently or proportionately tried in another court, then it may be transferred to that other court on the application of any party or of the court’s own motion (see CPR rule 61.2(3)).  The County Court has similar powers under CPR rule 30.3, including the power to transfer to the Admiralty Court.