Proposed Legislation, Which Strengthens the MoD’s Position on Limitation in Military PI Claims, Survives 2nd Reading in Commons

On 23 September 2020, the Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill was laid before the Parliament for its 2nd reading.

As we reported, in edition 311 of BC Disease News (here), Part 2 of the Bill amends s.33 of the Limitation Act 1980 to instigate a 6-year long-stop for personal injury/fatal claims (e.g. in respect of post-traumatic stress disorder, mesothelioma, noise-induced hearing loss, etc.), which relate to overseas operations with the armed forces (‘overseas armed forces actions’).

Assuming that the Bill is eventually receives Royal Assent, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would have extended rights to limit the court’s discretionary power to disapply time limits in such civil actions advanced by (ex-)service personnel.

Essentially, the final opportunity for a military clamant to commence litigation of this kind would arise up to 3-years after the limitation period is deemed to have expired.

In our previous article, we analysed the views of SNP Minister, Carol Monaghan, who described the Bill as an ‘attack’ on personnel and veterans in the House of Commons, on 16 July.

Since then, the Law Society has warned that a constriction of s.33 discretion may lead to ‘gross injustice’ for affected prospective claimants, with Vice President, David Greene, having forecasted that:[i]

‘Only the MoD stands to gain from the proposed time limit on compensation claims, as it would avoid having to pay court-awarded damages and costs. If claims are blocked by the bill the MoD would also be less likely to learn from past mistakes and improve practices’.

In spite of admonition, the Bill is expected to pass through the Commons ‘comfortably’. What scrutiny the Bill faces in the Lords is yet to be seen.

 

[i] John Hyde, ‘Overseas Operations Bill a “gross injustice” to veterans, say lawyers’ (23 September 2020 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/overseas-operations-bill-a-gross-injustice-to-veterans-say-lawyers/5105740.article> accessed 28 September 2020.