On 25 March 2022 the managing judge, Fancourt J, dismissed an application by News Group Newspapers Limited (“NGN”) to end the managed phone hacking litigation (known as “MTVIL”). His judgment ( EWHC 891 (Ch) [pdf]) provides a useful summary of the history and current state of the litigation.
The first phone hacking claim was brought by Gordon Taylor in 2007. In 2011 Vos J was appointed as the managing judge to hear all claims against NGN relating to phone hacking. The total number of issued claims in MTVIL is about 1,030. In addition, 358 claims were resolved through NGN’s own “compensation scheme”.
None of the MTVIL claims have gone to trial – although a total of 12 trials have been fixed since 2011 and there have been 45 case management conferences
MTVIL has, so far, proceeded in four “tranches”
- The first tranche was from 15 April 2011 to 27 February 2012, in which there were 64 issued claims.
- The second tranche ran from 28 February 2012 to 4 July 2014, with 230 issued claims;
- The third tranche from 5 September 2015 to 23 March 2019, with 91 claims;
- The fourth and current tranche opened on 26 March 2019 and still continues, with 164 issued claims and 277 claims settled at the pre-action stage. There are currently 58 unresolved claims, 38 in which letters of claim have been issued and 69 claims in the pipeline.
The claimants’ common costs in tranche 1 were £2.48 million; in tranche 2, £3.96 million; in tranche 3, £19.92 million. The tranche 3 total costs paid by the defendant, including the individual claimants’ costs, are said to have been about £35 million in comparison with settlement payments of £14.7 million in aggregate. For the first two and a half years of tranche 4, the claimants’ common costs are £11.1 million. Settlement amounts, on the other hand, in aggregate for tranche 4 claims are currently about £26 million.
Solicitors acting for the claimant group suggested that there remain a very large number of potential claims. It was said that may be 6,600 unique identifiable names who were the subject of unlawful activities by private investigators working for NGN and another 18,000 individuals who may have claims to bring.
NGN sought to argue that there should be a final cut off date for claims in 2022. It suggested that any potential claimant with a claim to bring must, by now, know enough to bring it before the cut off date for claims. The Judge rejected that contention for the following reasons:
(1) There was a continuous stream of new claims which did not appear to be abating.
(2) new claims were arising out of the management and preparation for trial of existing claims – a process which was likely to continue
(3) More claims were being brought that did not arise from published articles
(4) Even where there were published articles it was not necessarily obvious that the information was obtained by unlawful activity
(5) Suspicious phone activity did not necessarily cause a potential claim to think that they might have been a victim of phone hacking;
(6) For many claims it was only the facts established by phone data or private investigator invoices that made them realise they had a claim.
As a result, the Judge dismissed NGN’s application to bring the managing phone hacking litigation to an end.