Monday, May 23, 2011

Spotlight on 16 year Court of Session civil damages claim against Motherwell College as Lord Woolman declares “avizandum”

Lord WoolmanAvizandum : Court of Session judge Lord Woolman to rule on Scotland’s longest running civil damages claim. COURT OF SESSION judge LORD WOOLMAN, after listening to evidence for the past three years in this long running long civil damages claim against Motherwell College by Mr Martin Wilson a Music lecturer has declared “avizandum” (the private consideration of a case by a judge before reaching judgment) in the SIXTEEN YEAR old case. An earlier unanimous decision by an Employment Tribunal confirmed that Mr Wilson was unfairly forced out of his job while on long term sickness leave

The final set of hearings in the case, commonly known as M.Wilson v North Lanarkshire Council & Others (A1628/01) which has generated thousands of pages of transcripts, numerous hearings where internationally acclaimed medical expert witnesses rubbished the testimony of Motherwell College’s own ‘experts’, and more recently brought about Scotland’s first civil law McKenzie Friend in late 2009. It has led to “significant concerns” from legal insiders over the treatment of Party Litigants in the Scottish Courts system.

Concerns over how a civil damages claim of this nature can effectively get stuck in the Scottish legal system for an unprecedented sixteen years have also been expressed by consumer organisations and the media, where some journalists who attended the hearings were reported “to have been staggered” by the conduct of defending counsel in some matters they witnessed.

Closing submissions were made in the absence of a transcript of the most recent hearings and, while Mr Wilson has been given no option but to proceed as a Party litigant, the defenders North Lanarkshire Council and Motherwell College appointed Mr. Ian MacKay QC and his Junior Mr Calum Wilson - both defenders also being represented by Simpson & Marwick.

Scottish Law Reporter has previously covered the case here : Record 15 year wait for justice approaches for lecturer in Court of Session showdown with former Motherwell college ‘Bully Boss’ principal

Further developments in the final days of the long running case exposed the involvement of Marsh, who are now the insurers of North Lanarkshire Council who operate Motherwell College.

The latest developments along with some quite startling revelations were recently reported by Independent Law Journalist Peter Cherbi’s Diary of Injustice law blog, in an article reprinted below : Access to Justice ? Law Society's insurers Marsh UK linked to SIXTEEN YEAR Court of Session civil damages claim against Motherwell College 

Marsh UK, the UK subsidiary of the US insurance firm Marsh & McLennan companies which saw some of its directors plead guilty as a result of an investigation by the New York District Attorney's Office of bid-rigging and price-fixing in the insurance industry has now been linked to Scotland's longest running civil damages action claim, now in its SIXTEENTH YEAR in the Court of Session, involving Motherwell College & North Lanarkshire Council after the local authority released details in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Lord WoolmanCourt of Session judge Lord Woolman hears Scotland’s longest running civil damages claim. Now in its Sixteenth year in the Court of Session, fresh hearings in the long running civil damages claim in front of judge Lord Woolman began earlier on Tuesday of this week. M.Wilson v North Lanarkshire Council & Others (A1628/01) which has its origins in the mid 1990’s and brought about Scotland’s first civil law McKenzie Friend in late 2009, involves a sole party litigant, Mr Martin Wilson, a former Music lecturer of Motherwell College who, according to media reports was forced out of his job after sustaining severe back injuries during the course of his duties as a music lecturer during his time at the College in the 1990’s.

Responses obtained by Diary of Injustice in reply to Freedom of Information enquiries reveal that Marsh, the insurance firm who insure all members of Scotland’s legal profession without exception, now also insure North Lanarkshire Council, who operate Motherwell College.

An official from North Lanarkshire Council replying to an FOI request admitted : “I can advise that North Lanarkshire Council’s Insurance Brokers until 30 September 2007 were AON, and from 1 October 2007 this service has been provided by Marsh. I can advise also that Travellers Insurance Company Limited have provided employers liability cover for the whole period of your request.”

In what is now Scotland’s longest running civil damages claim, Mr Wilson, the party litigant, has been forced to represent himself after several of Scotland’s leading law firms suspiciously abandoned his case at the very last minute. Mr Wilson is facing North Lanarkshire Council and their indemnity insurers, Travelers Insurance Co Ltd who are both being represented in court by Edinburgh law firm Simpson & Marwick. Senior Counsel for Simpson & Marwick is Ian MacKay QC, Junior Counsel being Calum Wilson both of Compass Chambers.

Now, following further investigations by Diary of Injustice and despite the outrageous time it has taken for Scotland’s civil justice system to hear their testimony, hearings in the Court of Session have shown that many internationally acclaimed experts have supported the party litigant’s claims.

I first reported on Mr Wilson’s case late last year, here : FIFTEEN year wait for justice against Motherwell College marks poor state of Scotland’s ‘Victorian’ Justice System on European Civil Justice Day where legal insiders who attended previous court hearings reported that Mr Wilson, who had been put in the position of having to represent himself after several big name law firms, who were at the time & are currently all insured with Marsh UK, withdrew from Mr Wilson’s case at the last minute prior to scheduled hearings of the Proof. Mr Wilson had also encountered repeated & numerous refusals of ‘expert witnesses’ from Scotland to assist his case as long as he was unrepresented. As a party litigant without representation, Mr Wilson was, according to court observers, forced abroad to Japan and the United States for supportive expert medical reports.

According to court documents seen by Diary of Injustice last October, Mr Wilson was previously represented by the well known Edinburgh law firm of Balfour & Manson, who were appointed by Scotland’s largest teachers & lecturers Union, the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS), who spent tens of thousands of pounds assessing Mr Wilson’s injury as a valid claim, and that it should proceed to court. Amazingly it took the EIS almost THREE YEARS to lodge the summons against Motherwell College.

Papers studied by legal insiders reporting on the case revealed that Balfour & Manson, after being appointed by the EIS spent a staggering EIGHT YEARS working on Mr Wilson’s injury claim, and then at the last minute, decided to withdraw from acting for their client with only weeks to go before scheduled Proof Hearings in the Court of Session.

Balfour & Manson’s withdrawal from acting for Mr Wilson then became a suspicious pattern followed by further four law firms, including the Glasgow based Harper Macleod also withdrawing at the last minute, some eighteen months after representing Mr Wilson. Harper McLeod claimed they had ‘suddenly discovered’ “a commercial difficulty” in that they had an annual retainer from Motherwell College for several years, and had represented the College in Mr Wilson’s Employment Tribunal hearing over his unfair dismissal, which Mr Wilson won on a unanimous decision. Motherwell College also appealed the Employment Tribunal decision on Mr Wilson’s case and lost again.

A further two legal firms took on Mr Wilson’s case and then were apparently persuaded to drop their client, amazingly even returning fees paid to them for their service.

College's 300K Bully Bill Sunday Mail June 15 2003Motherwell College squandered £300K of taxpayers money fighting a string of Tribunal hearings involving bullying allegations against lecturers which the College lost. A number of media reports, referred to in recent coverage of the case by Scottish Law Reporter, show Motherwell College were involved in a string of Employment Tribunal decisions the college lost during Richard Millham’s term as Principal of Motherwell College. Allegations in newspapers including the Sunday Mail reported that “In 1999, lecturer Martin Wilson won £4000 after a tribunal ruled he had been unfairly fired. He had a back injury and could not work. A close friend said : "He was targeted by Millham. There was a strong climate of fear, which is still there ."

According to Scottish Law Reporter who last year reported on the case, “From 1995-1998 Motherwell College opposed Mr Wilson's claim for Unfair Dismissal while on long term sickness leave and lost, to a unanimous decision. Undeterred Motherwell College appealed the decision, and lost again. This was the first of several high profile Employment Tribunal cases lost by the Board of Management of Motherwell College, often to unanimous decisions against it.”

Simpson & Marwick, who are representing Motherwell College & North Lanarkshire Council, are themselves famed for their representation of solicitors accused of professional negligence & client swindling, all supposedly covered by the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Policy Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme, operated by Marsh to defend against negligence claims raised by clients. The Master Policy and its administration, operation was linked in 2009 to client suicides in an independent report published by the University of Manchester’s Law School.

One of Simpson & Marwick’s partners, Dr Pamela Abernethy famously appeared at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee during 2008, telling msps that pleural plaques, an asbestos related condition, could actually be good for people. I reported on Dr Abernethy’s incredulous claims in September 2008, here : Insurance lawyers argue against laws to help asbestos victims asserting part of their suffering 'is a good thing'

Marsh UK, the British end of the gigantic US insurance operation appear to be linked to many insurance deals in the public & private sector, ranging from multiple services provided by local & national government including law & order, to the private sector. Marsh also enjoy a monopoly on the insurance of all solicitors in Scotland through the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘brutal enforcement’ of the Master Insurance Policy arrangements where all solicitors are required to pay into the professional indemnity insurance scheme if they want to practice any form of law.

Marsh appear to have heavy political influence in the UK, with Conservative Lord Ian Lang now the Chairman elect of Marsh & McLennan companies, according to his register of interests published as per his duties as Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. Lord Lang joined the Marsh & McLennan board in 1997 and has assiduously refused all invitations to comment since news of the 'Marsh Frauds' broke, frauds which were accompanied by valid injury and disability claims being routinely denied. More on Lord Lang’s position at Marsh & McLennan and his career history, along with documents detailing serious allegations against many directors of Marsh including Lord Lang, can be viewed at Scottish Law Reporter, HERE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Quite simply disgraceful, and the fact that Ian Lang is allowed within a mile of the Advisory Committee of Business Appointments, far less be appointed its Chairman, reveals just how deeply embedded even businesses with a record of the worst kind of corrupt practises have been allowed to integrate and dictate terms in the UK.