This article has been co-authored by Molly Robertson, Paralegal, Media Disputes
On Friday 25th March a Case Management Conference in the Mobile Telephone Voicemail Interception Litigation (“MTVIL”) took place before the managing judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, in which Hamlins act in an individual capacity for a large number of claimants as well as Lead Solicitor. The hearing dealt with NGN’s application for a final cut-off date for claims to be brought in the managed group litigation. If it was successful, this would mean that the managed litigation would end after this tranche and individuals would need to individually pursue NGN with the obvious costs risk and without the benefit of common disclosure/ court documents.
In 2011, Mr Justice Vos (as he then was) was appointed as Managing Judge by the Chancellor to manage and hear all claims relating to phone hacking. The benefit of managed litigation and cases being managed by one judge, is that all cases are managed together, which has costs benefits for all. Further, claimants are able to automatically plead the generic matters without them having to be repeated in every individual claim and can rely upon generic disclosure.
NGN applied for an order that any claim form issued or served after 19 July 2022 would no longer come within the managed litigation scheme. The application was made on the basis that any claimant wishing to bring a claim for phone hacking should by now be aware that they have a claim, given the notoriety of such litigation. They also argued that ending the managed litigation would be beneficial as it would prevent the continued use of court resources and reduce costs, as well as providing NGN clarity about the quantity of remaining cases, which would assist with the settlement of claims.
The Claimants contended that, due to the nature of claims, and NGN’s concealment and destruction of evidence, claimants may not be aware that they have a claim until they are provided with sufficient information to realise it. The number of cases being issued remains consistent, and analysis of the disclosure and evidence received through the litigation suggests that there are potentially thousands more claimants who are not yet aware that they may have a claim.
Mr Justice Fancourt dismissed NGN’s application to impose a final cut-off date citing the following reasons:
- There is a continuous new stream of claims being issued which does not appear to be slowing down;
- The reason for the stream of new cases is that new claims arise from the management and preparation for trial of existing claims;
- More claims are being brought that do not arise from an article being published about the claimant, meaning that it is not the case that a claimant must know they are a victim of phone hacking because of an article;
- Even where an article is published about a potential claimant, it is not necessarily obvious from that fact that the information was obtained by unlawful activity;
- Suspicious phone activity may not cause a potential claimant to think that they might have been a victim of phone hacking; and
- For most claimants, it is only the facts established by phone data or PI invoices that make them realise they have a claim.
This is positive news for those considering bringing a claim for unlawful information gathering against NGN, and there is a Cut-off Date for the current tranche of 29 September 2022.
Enquiries to Callum Galbraith.