Cats, pigeons and quantum meruit
By Caring Times editor Geoff Hodgson
‘Quantum meruit’, an arcane legal term meaning, roughly, a fair return for services rendered, gained currency in the care sector in the late 1990s. Now, after a decade of quiescence, it looks like it might be making a comeback.
In recent years when, in the face of local authorities’ refusal to negotiate on fees, despairing care providers have turned to litigation, judicial review has been the orthodox route. Providers had enjoyed a fair degree of success in judicial reviews until a recent decision in Northumberland gave more weight than had previously been given to local authorities’ discretionary powers. Well, it had been fun while it lasted.
Enter Abbeyfield, a not-for-profit provider unhappy with the tricksiness of Newcastle City Council when the time came for another look at the contract. Abandoning judicial review, Abbeyfield’s lawyers invoked private law, arguing about contractual obligations. It worked.
The judge went much further than telling Newcastle to go away and have a think about what rate it should be paying (the best a provider could reasonably expect from a judicial review), he ordered the council to pay more, going so far as to set the fees. High-fives all round at Abbeyfield.
The case begs a lot of questions, two of which are: will we see similar challenges from providers? And what strategies might local authorities adopt? Perhaps they’ll begin to engage more meaningfully with independent providers. The October issue of Caring Times features a lawyer’s assessment of the potential significance of the Newcastle decision. Worth a read, I’d say.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.