The collapse of a law firm that had hundreds of active disability discrimination cases has caused confusion, concern and anger among some of its disabled former clients.
Fry Law, and its founder, Chris Fry, were responsible for taking a string of ground-breaking disability discrimination cases before the company was placed into administration last month.
But there are now concerns that mounting financial problems may have led to significant administrative failings that could mean many of Fry Law’s former clients will now not be able to continue with their discrimination cases.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has already confirmed that it is carrying out an investigation into Fry Law and Fry.
Disability News Service (DNS) has seen an email from an SRA investigation manager which confirms that SRA has an “active regulatory investigation” into Fry (pictured, above right) and Fry Law over financial and “related matters”, while an SRA spokesperson has told DNS: “We are investigating before deciding on appropriate action.”
Fry Law’s previous cases have been taken over by three other legal firms: Clear Law, Simpson Millar and SSB Law.
DNS has also seen an email written by Clear Law to one of Fry Law’s former clients, which says their case cannot now go forward because it is “statute barred” (otherwise known as time barred) because of what it says was Fry Law’s failure to meet strict Equality Act deadlines for lodging paperwork with the courts and paying the relevant fees.
This email is believed to have been sent to a number of disabled people, many of whom are likely to have been taking cases alleging discrimination by service-providers during the pandemic.
Among those clients who believe they have been let down by Fry Law is Marco Naayem.
He had two ongoing disability discrimination cases with Fry Law, both connected with allegations that service-providers failed to make reasonable adjustments during the pandemic.
Naayem (pictured, above left), who has invisible physical impairments, as well as serious allergies and asthma that mean he cannot wear a face covering, was taking cases against the retailer Costco and a sports club, both of which refused him entry.
But he has been told that at least one of the cases seems to be time barred.
He said: “In a nutshell, Fry Law stuffed me up on two cases.
“It has really, really cheesed me off because I have been discriminated against and I wanted to right some wrongs and it has been taken away from me.”
He said he had been told by Clear Law that there were many other disabled people “in the same boat”.
Other former Fry Law clients have expressed anger and concern on social media over how their cases were dealt with before the firm’s collapse.
Fry Law was seen as the country’s leading firm of solicitors on disability discrimination, and one of the few that would take on cases around access to goods and services.
It took hundreds of cases on behalf of disabled people who alleged discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, including around access to healthcare, access to supermarkets, and the government’s failure to provide British Sign Language interpreters at televised COVID-19 briefings.
Fry has previously blamed a complex series of factors for being forced into administration.
He accepted that there had been some administrative problems at Fry Law in the run-up to being placed into administration, some of which were caused by the sudden cancellation of one deal to take over the company, which led to two consultants leaving without giving notice.
He also accepted that a “small number of cases may have been mishandled” by a former member of staff.
He added: “Yes, we’re not perfect and there will be some cases, I am sure, because we were so short-staffed in the run-up to the administration, there are definitely cases that haven’t been worked on as proactively as I want.”
He said that if there were any cases of negligence, they would be protected by Fry Law’s insurance policy, and so the former client would be able to claim for the amount of compensation they were seeking in their discrimination claim.
He said: “If we were negligent and we missed a date then it will be picked up and clients will be compensated.
“They will be compensated for any negligence on our part. There is an appropriate mechanism for that.”
But he said that he had so far reviewed eight cases and none of them was time barred as a result of his firm’s actions.
Fry accepted that SRA was carrying out an inquiry, but he said it was a result of his “self-notifications made regarding the financial position of the business”.
He added: “I am in regular contact with the SRA and yes, they have had loads of complaints from people that we have not been replying to emails and messages quickly enough and we have accepted that that’s the case.”
Clear Law, Simpson Millar and SSB Law have declined to comment.
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