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Infant approval hearing – top tips

An interesting article provides some practical advice on achieving the court’s approval in infant approval hearings. This is a mechanism by which the court considers and, hopefully, approves the settlement of claims of those under 18 who have been injured. CPR 21 provides the rules relating to cases involving children and protected parties; this article gives practitioners some helpful guidance about the actual hearings.
 
Is there an appropriate litigation friend? A child must have a litigation friend to conduct proceedings on their behalf. Any steps taken before the appointment of the litigation friend has been made shall be of no effect.
 
Has the claimant complied with CPR 21? Claims cannot be compromised without the approval of the court and is thus a necessary procedure to protect child claimants and to secure the discharge of defendants.
 
Has the claim claimant complied with the court’s directions? Different courts have different methods of dealing with these applications. Accordingly, it is perhaps obvious but important to ensure that any such directions have been complied with.
 
Check the name of the claimant – again while this sounds somewhat obvious, it is vital that the proceedings have been issued in the full name of the child as it appears on their birth certificate. This will be the same name that is used for investment of the damages. The claim is often not issued in the full name. Unsurprisingly some courts take a dim view of this.
 
Where is the fund being invested? Historically the standard order was the damages to be invested in the Court Funds Office (CFO). The rate is now 0.5% and it is thus now a requirement for solicitors to ask the litigation friend if the claimant has a child ISA or trust fund with a better rate of interest where the damages can be invested until the age of majority.
 
Will there be any deductions from damages? Since April 2013, the cost of after the event insurance and success fees are commonly deducted from damages. Where a child is involved, the permission of the court is needed for any deductions to be made from their damages. Courts have shown a reluctance to make these deductions.
 
Who needs to attend the hearing? The CPR is silent on this issue. It is usual for the litigation friend and the child to attend. This should be the litigation friend and not some other family member, because it is they who have had conduct of the claim from the start. Age does not excuse the attendance of the child – all must attend unless the court orders otherwise.
 
See [2019] 179 Personal Injury Law Journal 16.
 

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