Concerns has been raised about the Compensation Scheme being set up by the St Helena Government for orthopaedic patients. The scheme was announced soon after Sergio Villatoro Bran was given a 23-month suspended custodial sentence last Friday.
Friday’s announcement from SHG includes, “This also means that claimants will not need a lawyer to access the scheme, although they can engage their own legal representatives at their own cost if they want to.” Their announcement also states, “Claimants will still have the option of bringing a claim through the court system, but this can be costly, time-consuming and stressful. By setting up an independently managed compensation scheme, claimants will now have an alternative to litigation, which should prove more cost-effective for them, and may result in compensation going to them rather than on legal fees.”
Ruth Powell, Head of Clinical Negligence at Hugh James Solicitors has repeatedly and publicly explained they are accepting compensation claims on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. The ‘success fee’ payable if and when a compensation claim is successful is fully explained to each individual. Ruth says she is also trying to set up a protocol with SHG so that bringing cases to court can be avoided. SHG appear to be ignoring this. More on this in Friday’s Independent.
The SHG announcement also claims they are setting up an “an independently managed compensation scheme”. As SHG explain, they have “engaged an external law firm with significant experience” to “develop and manage the scheme”. All solicitors are engaged to work under the instructions of whoever engages them. Instructions can be changed and additional instructions given throughout the time the solicitors are paid by whoever engages them. It is not accurate to state the solicitors they engage will act independently.
SHG’s announcement goes further, “This also means that claimants will not need a lawyer to access the scheme, although they can engage their own legal representatives at their own cost if they want to.” Exactly what will unrepresented claimants be ‘signing up’ to? Can they withdraw from the scheme if they so wish without any restrictions or conditions? Will there be any time limit imposed on application claims – there usually is? Will unrepresented claimants be actually signing up to anything? An adequate and water-tight agreement should be clearly set out and agreed from the very beginning to protect the claimants’ interests. Ideally, legal advice is required to check out the small print in these circumstances.
There are other very important considerations on this very important issue. Friday’s Independent will include a feature covering all of this.
Also, anyone can obtain independent information by attending a public meeting to be held this week, on Wednesday 27th September at the Museum, starting a 7pm. Ruth Powell, Head of Clinical Negligence at Hugh James Solicitors has organised this meeting to answer any questions people may have in connection with Sergio Villatoro’s criminal conviction and the consequences of it.