Legal Cost Specialists

Posts by Simon Gibbs

Another one bites the dust

By on Oct 30, 2020 | 0 comments

The wheels of justice turn slowly at the best of times but one would hope the regulatory authorities would act with a degree of alacrity. Many readers will recall the case of GSD Law Ltd v Wardman & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 2144.  This case concerned a number of personal injury claims where GSD Law acted for the claimants. At the subsequent detailed assessment of the costs of those claims in 2014, the paying parties’ insurer alleged systematic fraud and misconduct against GSD Law, including claiming for hourly rates in excess of the retainer rates, claims for senior lawyers’ rates for work done by junior fee-earners, and claims for work that had simply not been done. At first instance, Regional Costs Judge Neaves found GSD Law’s principal, Kirna Madhas, to be “a wholly unreliable witness” and that her evidence was “not only evasive and inconsistent, but dishonest”. He held all the allegations made against GSD Law proved and that the extent of the conduct and dishonesty of GSD Law was at the most serious end of the scale. This included submitting a forged conditional fee agreement to the court. He concluded: “The conduct of the receiving party’s solicitor is sufficiently egregious as to make the only appropriate sanction the disallowance of all costs on the sample files. The receiving party will also pay the costs of the assessment proceedings including the preliminary issues.” The Court of Appeal rejected GSD Law’s subsequent appeal. One of the most striking features about the case (as if forging a CFA were not bad enough) is that during the detailed assessment proceedings Ms Madhas admitted making false allegations to the Costs Lawyer Standards Board about the conduct of the insurer’s Costs Lawyer, Jon Williams of Williams Associates Costs Lawyers.  This was clearly a blatant attempt to undermine the proper challenges that had been made to her fraudulent claim for costs.  Jon Williams is one of the country’s most highly respected Costs Lawyers and, even at the time, this act alone appeared to be adequate reason for Ms Madhas to be struck off. The original decision was in 2014 and the Court of Appeal decision was in December 2017.  The relevant authorities do not appear...

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Belsner v Cam Legal Services Ltd

By on Oct 19, 2020 | 0 comments

The decision in Belsner v Cam Legal Services Ltd [2020] EWHC 2755 (QB) will have sent a shiver down the spine of many claimant solicitors in the personal injury field, although the decision may well have wider implications. The case concerned a solicitor/own client assessment. The underlying matter concerned a low value RTA being pursued in the RTA portal.  The costs recoverable from the opponent to the RTA claim were limited to fixed costs plus disbursements. The client’s solicitors sought to charge their client the costs recovered from the opponent plus 25% of the damages recovered. Section 74(3) of the Solicitors Act 1974 provides: “The amount which may be allowed on the assessment of any costs or bill of costs in respect of any item relating to proceedings in the county court shall not, except in so far as rules of court may otherwise provide, exceed the amount which could have been allowed in respect of that item as between party and party in those proceedings, having regard to the nature of the proceedings and the amount of the claim and of any counterclaim.” Although the claim itself settled prior to proceedings being issued, it was not disputed that this section applied to the case. CPR 46.9(2) provides, in relation to the detailed assessment of solicitor and client costs: “Section 74(3) of the Solicitors Act 1974 applies unless the solicitor and client have entered into a written agreement which expressly permits payment to the solicitor of an amount of costs greater than that which the client could have recovered from another party to the proceedings.” The issue for the court was whether a solicitor seeking to rely on CPR 46.9(2) has to show that the client gave informed consent to the payment to the solicitor of an amount of costs greater than that which the client could have recovered from another party to the proceedings. The terms of the CFA, which governed the costs payable between the solicitors and the client, contained standard Law Society wording: “Normally, you can claim part or all of our basic charges and our expenses and disbursements from your opponent. You provide us with your irrevocable agreement to pursue such a claim on your...

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Date from which interest on costs runs

By on Jul 17, 2020 | 0 comments

I have already written about the case of Marbrow v Sharpes Garden Services Ltd [2020] EWHC B26 (Costs) (10 July 2020) where the Senior Costs Judge Master Gordon-Saker declined the Claimant’s invitation to award pre-judgment interest on costs. He also declined my invitation, on behalf of the Defendant paying party, to only allow interest from 3 months after the date of the order for costs. This was the approach adopted by Leggatt J. (as he then was) in the High Court decision of Involnert Management Inc v Aprilgrange Limited & Ors [2015] EWHC 2834 (Comm) at paragraph 24: “it seems to me that a reasonable objective benchmark to take is the period prescribed by the rules of court for commencing detailed assessment proceedings. Pursuant to CPR 47.7, where an order is made for payment of costs which are to be the subject of a detailed assessment if not agreed, the time by which detailed assessment proceedings must be commenced (unless otherwise agreed or ordered) is three months after the date of the costs order. In order to commence such proceedings, the receiving party must serve on the paying party a bill of costs giving particulars of the costs claimed. It is then for the paying party to decide which items in the bill of costs it wishes to dispute. Postponing the date from which Judgments Act interest begins to run by three months will therefore generally serve to ensure that the party liable for costs has received the information needed to make a realistic assessment of the amount of its liability before it begins to incur interest at the rate applicable to judgment debts for failing to pay that amount.” It is clear from this passage that he was attempting to set out a general principle as to the date from which interest should run, as opposed to the decision being based on the particulars of the case.  This decision is heavily criticised in Cook on Costs 2020 (at 32.5). The Master summarised the law as being: “The entitlement to interest on costs under section 17 of the 1838 Act is automatic. Generally the court will not order it expressly. Interest is therefore payable on costs at 8 per cent from the...

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White Paper’s Costs Litigation Conference 2020

By on Jul 14, 2020 | 1 comment

White Paper’s always excellent annual costs conference did not proceed as normal this year for obvious reasons. However, the full conference with the full array of speakers proceeded as a pre-recorded webinar event. This is still available to view online here (until 29 July 2020) for a very modest £204 plus...

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Recovery of interest paid on disbursement funding loan

By on Jul 13, 2020 | 4 comments

Last week in Marbrow v Sharpes Garden Services Ltd [2020] EWHC B26 (Costs) (10 July 2020) the Senior Costs Judge Master Gordon-Saker handed down a reserved judgment in relation to three discreet issues where I acted for the Defendant paying party. None of the issues were novel, but they are ones that have continued to trouble the lower courts, which was no doubt part of the reason for the reserved judgment. The issue I will deal with today is the decision relating to whether the interest paid on a disbursement funding loan was recoverable as an item of cost or, alternatively, by way of allowing interest to run from an earlier period. The Claimant claimed, as an item of costs, the interest payable under a loan agreement with his solicitors in relation to the funding of disbursements. The agreed interest rate was 5%. The Claimant relied on the decision of the Court of Appeal in Secretary of State for Energy v Jones [2014] EWCA Civ 363 as authority that such an item was recoverable as an item of costs.  The Master rejected that on the basis the Court in that case was concerned with the rate of interest that could be allowed on costs from a date earlier than judgment where, as here, the claimants had incurred a liability to pay interest to their solicitors in respect of the funding of disbursements. In Hunt v RM Douglas (Roofing) Ltd [1987] 11 WLUK 221 the claimant sought to recover on the taxation of his costs the interest that he had incurred under an overdraft to fund the disbursements required for his claim.  The Court of Appeal held that funding costs had never been included in the categories of expense recoverable as costs and to include them would constitute an unwarranted extension. The Master held that it was clear following Hunt that interest incurred under a disbursement funding loan cannot be recoverable as costs and so disallowed the item within the bill. However, the Master then considered CPR 44.2(6)(g), which does allow the court to order the payment of interest on costs from a date before judgment.  He distinguished Jones on the basis it was a different case to the present:...

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