Loser pays


Towns need useless law suits like nudists need bicycles

Towns need useless law suits like nudists need bicycles

Unlike the United States, English litigants who lose in court must pay the winners’ legal fees. This can have a sobering effect on towns that join pressure groups of their residents to fight development on spurious grounds. 

A long-running dispute involving a rare bird has cost taxpayers nearly £500,000.

Portsmouth City Council is to pay £475,000 in legal fees after losing a string of court battles with defence giant QinetiQ.

It had tried to stop the firm’s plans for a road to three new blocks of flats it was building overlooking a nudist beach near Fort Cumberland in Eastney.

It said the work may harm the legally protected Dartford warbler thought to be nesting nearby.

But after racking up £150,000 in legal fees, and with a ruling saying further searches for the rare bird were unnecessary, the council had to agree to the road.

So had the rare birds flocked together to persuade the town to expose itself to such grievous liability? No, it was birds of  no feathers.

Naturists launched a campaign to stop the development amid fears that it would prevent them using the beach.

Here in the Land of the Free, opponents of projects they don’t like also exploit our environmental laws and every other legal leverage tool they can find to delay and even stop developers; the difference is, our system doesn’t make them responsible for the costs of their tactics. The English system would give them pause.


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12 responses to “Loser pays

  1. Al Dente

    In the case cited it was taxpayer dollars so who cares. Free money, the gubment will never stop idiotic lawsuits. Take the judgements out of bureaucrats pay checks and you might have some actual thought about these issues.

  2. Fred2

    Yeah, loser pays (within reason, I think there has to be some mechanism, so that losing hurts but that the winner can’t just load on spurious costs in some (vastly) punitive way) is a good idea and would go a long way towards reducing lawfare & fishing expeditions.

    i.e. I have no trouble or qualms seeing some jerky serial litigant end up with 100,000’s of $ of the defence’s legal expenses, or some lawyer who took on a case “for 1$ + % of the spoils” getting hammered when he loses. I do have a problem when an otherwise bona-fide litigant who gets a crappy jury, or hired an awful lawyer, or a very close-run decision (where the litigant had honest reason to believe they had a good case at the start) getting hammered into the poor house with some rich defense’s 1000$ an hour lawyer’s bills.

    The idea is to reduce frivolous suits, not (excessively) punish the losers.

    • Toonces

      Loser pays is a fine system except for one thing. A very legitimate claim by a poor person might never be brought because this person could not pay should he/she lose. The non- big-gov solution to that of course us to have legal aid societies that take on those cases.

      • That’s what the trial lawyers would have you believe, but I don’t believe it. To the contrary, deep pocket towns, insurance companies, etc. wear down poor litigants until their suits go away. If they knew they’d have to pay up if they lost, there would be more resolutions, quicker.

        • Toonces

          i hear you Chris – but I don’t think the poor litigants will ever go after the big pocket towns/govs because the poor can’t afford to pay should they lose.
          I am in favor of loser pays. I just think there has to be some way to help the poor pay should they lose (in the scenario described by Fred2 above).

          Ps – the government has unlimited funds to use in lawsuits because they just tax the people to pay for them. This is just wrong.

  3. AJ

    Agenda 21: we’re all losers.

  4. Fox

    And why not apply loser pays to criminal cases, too?

    • Yos

      An extension of that is prosecutorial accountability – a la Nifong. Rare bird, that creep.

      It’s too damned rare when prosecutors and regulators pay for misfeasance and malfeasance. Yeah, people make errors. Got it. Yet complete power-trip AH types such as Elliot Spitzer only seem to pay when they’re caught elsewhere.

      Whoever sends and/or leads a SWAT team to burn a kid in his crib – merely to administer a drug arrest warrant – ought to serve jail time.

    • Anon2

      Divorce court would be a great place to start. Might stop the pitting of two lawyers to suck the blood out of both client.

  5. Saline Dreamin'

    Loser has to fight this girl