Legal Cost Specialists

Posts made in March, 2009

The law firms costing NHS millions

By on Mar 30, 2009 | 0 comments

The Sunday Times followed on from last week’s attack on the costs paid out in clinical negligence cases (see previous blog) with a Top 10 list of the firms who were paid the most by the NHSLA in 2007/08: Irwin Mitchell £10.75m Leigh Day £4.87m Pannone LLP £4.83m McMillan Williams £3.01m Kingsley Napley £2.96m Gadsby Wicks £2.40m Russell Cooke £1.86m Challinors Lyon Clark £1.58m Keeble Hawson £1.55m Withy King £1.53m Total: £35.34m The list was presumably meant to be a Hall of Shame but one suspects that there will be a number of firms looking at the list and their one regret will be that that they were not higher up the list. Click image to enlarge:  ...

Read More

"NHS leeches"

By on Mar 23, 2009 | 1 comment

Although The Legal Costs Blog is unashamedly defendant biased, and always ready to have a go at claimant lawyers, even we were somewhat taken back by the attack launched on claimant clinical negligence lawyers in yesterday’s Sunday Times. One article was headed “Lawyers use NHS as £100m cash cow” and another “Lawyers get m0re than victims in NHS compensation scandal“. The leading article ran with the headline “Taking a knife to the NHS leeches“. The source of this fury seems to have been The NHSLA submission to civil litigation costs review. The NHSLA paper states that “the whole costs structure is indefensibly expensive in relation to the compensation awarded or agreed”. It highlights the large discrepancies between the amounts charged by defendant and claimant lawyers in clinical negligence cases and claims that “claimant legal costs are more than double the defendant legal costs on average and that the gap … has been widening over recent years”. The impact of CFAs is particularly criticised, with it being claimed that “they are effectively a means of claimant lawyers virtually doubling their profit costs having cherry-picked their cases”. It also claims that the effect of CFAs is to produce hourly rates of potentially over £800 an hour. The papers makes a number of proposals for reform including the introduction of routine costs capping orders and fixed staged success fees. The NHSLA’s submission paper is for the benefit of Lord Justice Jacson’s ongoing review of the current costs system. It appears that it is now being generally accepted that he really has neither ruled anything in nor ruled anything out. We can now start to expect a growing number of similar submissions from various interested parties trying to influence his thinking. The Sunday Times leading article concluded: “The NHS Litigation Authority is right. We need to reform this process and end the party for lawyers.” It is fair to say that the Sunday Times is not an entirely uninterested party. The Ministry of Justice is currently engaged in the Controlling costs in defamation proceedings consultation. The press has been attempting to limit CFA funded costs in such claims and a general attack on claimant lawyers’ fees will do no harm to that cause....

Read More

Signatures to CFAs

By on Mar 12, 2009 | 0 comments

In a previous post I commented on the fact that Cook on Costs 2009 is wrong when it says: "With the removal of the [CFA] Regulations [2000] from 1 November 2005 a CFA needs only to be in writing and signed…". As confirmed by Senior Costs Judge Master Hurst, in Findley v Jones and MIB [2009] EWHC 90130 (Costs): "As things stand at the moment there is no need for a CFA to be signed by the client. As at 4 May 2004 the CFA Regulations 2000 did require such a signature". The same view was expressed in Birmingham City Council v Forde [2009] EWHC 12 (QB). The requirement for a CFA to be signed by the client and the legal representative disappeared with the revocation of the Regulations. However, what is the consequence if a pre-November 2005 was not signed? It will obviously be a breach of the Regulations but is it a material breach such as to render the agreement unenforceable? In Fenton v Holmes [2007] EWHC 2476 (Ch) the Court was faced with a CFA document which had been signed by both the solicitor and client. However, the CFA lacked a crucial clause necessary to comply with the Regulations. This clause was contained within a seperate letter sent to the client. This letter was not signed by the client. Mann J found this to be a material breach and the CFA was found to be invalid. In Preece v Caerphilly CBC (Cardiff CC, 15/8/07, unreported) (Lawtel Link) the CFA had been signed by the client but not by the solicitors. Hickinbottom J held: "I do not suggest for one moment that the solicitor’s signature in this case was omitted for anything other than the most innocent of reasons: but, if a CFA is not signed, then a less scrupulous solicitor may for example seek to enforce his right to be paid his reasonable costs if the client’s claim fails. The signature of the solicitor affords the client some real protection against that possibility, as rare as that hopefully might be in practice". The CFA was held to be invalid. However, in Findley, Master Hurst decided that the failure of a Litigation Friend to re-sign a CFA...

Read More

Cole v News Group – The unread judgment

By on Mar 3, 2009 | 0 comments

Many years ago, when I was studying for my law degree, I was told never to simply rely on the headnote of a law report, but to read the judgment in full. This was for two reasons. Firstly, it was often only by reading the full judgment would one properly understand the decision and the reasoning behind it. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the headnote was sometimes inaccurate and misleading. Of course, at the time, I ignored that advice. The modern equivalent to that advice is never trust case summaries you have simply read on the internet (this blog included) but to actually read the full judgment yourself. A perfect example of the problems that arise from not following this advice is the strange case of Cole v News Group Newspapers Ltd (18/10/06, SCCO, unreported). I say “strange” because of the way this case has been reported. The background to the judgment was a libel claim brought by a certain well known footballer. I don’t need to repeat the salacious details of the original story, but I’m sure Ashley would be intrigued to discover this case has become best known in certain circles as a legal costs law authority rather than for the original allegations. A quick Google search for “Cole v News Group” produces a number of legal websites offering case summaries of this judgment. They all appear to be inaccurate. I say “appear” because the difficulty with this case is it truly does seem to be unreported and is not available on any of the normal resources such as Bailli or Lawtel. This seems to have encouraged a number of individuals to pass on details of this case on a Chinese whispers basis without actually obtaining and reading a copy. Further, a growing number of claimant costs draftsmen routinely quote this case to resist requests for disclosure of CFAs. It may be that the transcript of the case that I have seen is not the final decision and that a further decision exists. If that is the case, and any reader can produce a more recent decision, I will happily write a further post on the subject. Of the various case summaries that do exist on the...

Read More