The Court of Appeal has recently decided in the case of JX MX v Dartford that the identities of children and protected parties in medical negligence and personal injury cases should not be made public unless there is good reason to do so.
Under English law, settlements for children (under 18) and protected parties (someone unable to conduct litigation themselves) have to be approved by the Court and they must be represented by a Litigation Friend, that is, a fair and competent adult.
As with most Court hearings these days, approval hearings are heard in open Court and Judgments often made public. Members of the Press sometimes attend Courts and publish details of interesting cases and also lawyers or insurers for either side are able to do so.
It was argued by the Claimant’s legal representatives that this left the Claimants open to exploitation and they should be put on a par with cases which have confidential settlements.
In this particular case, the Claimant was serious injured by events shortly before and during childbirth leaving her disabled and requiring attendance at a special needs school and working with a team of carers.
The Claimant’s family wished for anonymity on the basis that they did not want it to be public knowledge that they had received settlement amounting to several million pounds and asked the Court to consider accordingly.
It had been decided at a previous hearing in this case that anonymity would not be granted. However, the Judge on that occasion appeared to have some sympathy with the Claimant and accepted that the internet would enable any publicity surrounding the case to be widespread and long lasting and suggested that keeping details of the Claimant private would ensure that more details could be released in terms of the specific negligence and injuries involved.
The Court of Appeal granted anonymity and seems to have taken on board some of the previous Judge’s comments and it is likely that this will be followed on all similar occasions unless the Court deems it unnecessary or inappropriate.
It was decided that “in the pursuit of open justice the Court should be more willing to recognise a need to protect the interest of Claimants who are children and protected parties, including their right and that of their families to respect for their privacy”.
The Court of Appeal Judgment reverses the usual publicity rules, however, the Press can still apply to the Court and object to anonymity being given. Prior to this decision, the Claimant had to apply to the Court for anonymity and supply the Press Association with any submissions.
Personal Injury & Medical Negligence Department
0113 227 9355