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COVID-19 and the law: Fieldfisher reverts to remote hearings to ensure clients are cared for

During the current special working measures, Fieldfisher's personal injury and medical negligence solicitors are conducting remote court hearings and consultations via online platforms to protect the interests of clients.

Partner Iona Meeres-Young last week successfully settled a child brain injury case via video link arranged through Fieldfisher's online communications facility. This spared the family, who lost their son recently, the prolonged agony of having to adjourn a 10-day trial, otherwise listed for 27 April. Next Monday, Iona will repeat the exercise in an adult brain injury case where the claimant is in minimally conscious state.

Mark Bowman will run a remote Cost and Case Management Conference (CCMC) this week in a fatal road traffic accident involving a student's parent killed on the grounds of Sunningdale School, while Jill Greenfield and Havinder Kaur will do the same for a client seriously injured in a cycling accident.

In another CCMC remote hearing for a case involving a school teacher badly assaulted in a care facility, Caron Heyes said the Royal Courts of Justice have accommodated late lodgement due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

Head of asbestos claims Peter Williams said his team were meeting current and new clients online and by phone to deal with enquiries, not least since people affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers were rightly self-isolating to protect their health as far as possible.

Meanwhile, the judiciary of England and Wales – the independent body overseeing civil procedures in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the county courts – has set guidelines for the legal profession in how to conduct remote hearings, including trials and applications, during the current situation around COVID-19.

It states that paramount to any remote hearing is the need to maintain the principles of open justice, fundamental to the UK legal system.

This means that remote hearings, so far as possible, will still be public hearings where appropriate, with audio and video where available of the hearing being relayed to an open court room, with accredited journalists able to log in to the hearing, which may also be live streamed over the internet.

Other parties may not, however, record the hearing without the permission of the judge, as is the case in regular court room hearings.

A remote hearing will operate with the clerk or court official and the parties logging in at the stated start time, with the judge then invited to join by the court official. Legal documents (bundles) will be supplied to all parties electronically.

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