What if a litigant in person doesn’t understand the law?
A litigant in person (LiP) was suing solicitors for £750,000 over an allegedly defective postnuptial agreement. This was a misconceived claim, but he didn’t know it; £250,000 of the claim was for PSLA, not claimable in a commercial case, and the remainder was for a post-nuptial settlement which could never have been legally effective. His misunderstanding of the law was a barrier to settlement, and he was facing financial disaster at trial.
How can a mediator give legal advice?
Although Chris knew enough about the law to see that the claim was hopeless, and that the LiP would lose at trial with a huge loss in costs, a mediator cannot give legal advice. So what was to be done?
There were six solicitors and a claims manager in the other room. Chris arranged for just two solicitors to meet the LiP and explain the law to him; Chris officiated just to make sure that there was fair play. The LiP took the explanations well, and agreed that the case should be settled.
The claims manager agreed to write off costs of £134,000 (any attempt to recover costs would have been a Pyrrhic victory) and the claimant agreed to accept £30,000 in full settlement, which was within the defendant firm’s excess. Both sides wrote to Chris afterwards expressing their thanks.