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The court held that the claimant solicitors were to negotiate a settlement on the basis of the existing evidence upon the instructions of the litigation friend, despite the claimant's prognosis remaining unclear.
23 January 2014, Queen's Bench Division
The claimant, a minor, born on 29 February 2000 had fallen from a window of the flat where he was living with his mother and sister on 29 May 2004, when he was aged 4. He suffered serious orthopaedic injuries from which he recovered. Liability for the matter had been settled between the parties and approved by the court. The claimant demonstrated evidence of impaired school progress and was hyperactive. The claimant's medical evidence concluded that "in all probability the claimant suffered an acquired brain injury most probably affecting the left hemisphere and language function". The evidence was that "it was very likely... that there is significant brain impairment". The claimant's parents were not willing to cooperate with the experts and were not amenable to putting further recommended support in place for him. The litigation friend gave instructions for the matter to be settled as soon as possible. The claimant solicitors made an application to court to ask whether the appointment of the litigation friend should be terminated and a new litigation friend appointed pursuant to CPR 21.7 or whether the case should be settled in accordance with the instructions of the current litigation friend, being one of the parents. Having considered the evidence, it was concluded that the best course to pursue in the circumstances was for the claimant solicitors to seek to negotiate a settlement on the basis of the existing medical and other evidence as instructed by the litigation friend. It was probable that if a new litigation friend were to be appointed the claimant's parents would remain as uncooperative as before and this would not assist in advancing the best interests of the claimant. The matter was settled and the court gave its approval to the settlement.
This is an interesting short case which demonstrates the court's reluctance to substitute a litigation friend where the parents of the child claimant would remain uncooperative, as this would not assist in advancing the best interests of the claimant.