Changes to Scotland’s civil court landscape

Lord Gill's review of the Scottish civil court system in 2009 and the subsequent implementation of the Courts Reform (Scotland) 2014 Act, saw two major changes to the civil court system come into effect from 22 September 2015.

The Act is the single most important piece of Scottish legislation in the field of civil justice reform for over a century.

One of the fundamental changes relates to the increase in the limit of the Court of Session from £5,000 to £100,000. It had been argued that too many lower value cases were being raised in the Court of Session generating legal costs that were disproportionate to the actual value of the claim. It is expected that the increase in the Court of Session's threshold will see a massive shift of cases, particularly personal injury cases, to the Sheriff Courts.

Section 41 of the 2014 Act allows sheriff courts with an all-Scotland jurisdiction to be established. A new Sheriff Personal Injury Court has been created in Edinburgh with a Scotland-wide jurisdiction similar to that of the Court of Session. It is estimated that over 2,000 cases a year will proceed through this court. In less than a month over 100 cases have been sent to the new PI court for warranting. The Court is staffed by specialist personal injury Sheriffs. Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC, the Sheriff Principal of Lothian and Borders, has designated Sheriff Paul Arthurson QC, Sheriff Peter Braid, Sheriff Gordon Liddle, Sheriff Kathrine Mackie, Sheriff Kenneth McGowan and Sheriff Fiona Reith QC as specialists in actions of damages for personal injury.

The court has jurisdiction in personal injury cases exceeding £5,000, workplace-related PI actions exceeding £1,000, and any workplace-related PI case under £1,000 remitted to the all-Scotland court by the sheriff. Actions can still be lodged in local courts, but new rules have been made to allow civil jury trials and to allow e-motions in the new All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court at Edinburgh. Those cases valued at under £5,000, other than those mentioned, will continue to be raised under Summary Cause procedure within the various local Sheriff Courts.

Other changes including extending the new Sheriff Appeal Court to civil cases and a new simple procedure to replace the current small claims and summary cause procedures are still to be introduced as part of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act. Changes are also proposed to legislation on expenses and funding of civil litigation generally.

For further information, contact Stephanie Watson on 01382 346276 or swatson@thorntons-law.co.uk. Alternatively, contact the Personal Injury Team on 01382 229111 who will be pleased to assist further.

Categories: Personal Injury

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