Some years ago I was called an ambulance chaser in an article that was published in Money Management magazine – an event that I took great exception to at the time and something that still makes me angry when I think about it today.
Today’s editorial in the AFR about the ANZ bank fees case used that term to describe the lawyers who had acted against ANZ (interestingly, I’m not sure if this term was meant to apply to the Barristers who argued it for the claimant – one of those Barristers being one of most highly regarded barristers in Australia).
The thrust of the editorial is that an orgy of ambulance-chasing class action lawyers have cobbled together a case that clearly defies all common sense and more importantly propriety – particularly that they have had the temerity to suggest that fees charged by powerful institutions such as banks should be subject to oversight. The reality is that these lawyers were successful before a Federal Court Judge, they were able to get special leave to appeal to the High Court and they lost 4-1 in the High Court – that is, they were able to persuade one High Court Judge as to their position – it’s hardly fair (it is, in fact, ridiculous) to imply that the case put forward by them had no merit.
More generally, the use of the term ambulance chaser is an offensive slur – I know that Banks would like to live in a world when the only people that were allowed to use the legal system were them when they want to sue a customer but perhaps the AFR might consider whether it is conceivable that a person could have a legitimate claim against a Bank and that a lawyer who acts for that person is not, by definition, an ambulance chaser.