30.01.2014Stone Rowe Brewer LLP v Just Costs Ltd.  EWHC 219 (QB)
Key areas: Solicitor/Own client; High Court
This was a hearing to determine costs arising from a solicitor/client costs-assessment.
The Claimant applied for an assessment of 13 bills totalling £33,000.00. They submitted that they weren’t liable for £20,000.00 of those costs, due to the Defendant’s repudiatory breach.
The parties eventually settled the whole claim for £23,700.00, which meant that the Claimant had achieved a better-than-20% reduction, and so in principle they were entitled to the costs of the assessment proceedings under s. 70 Solicitors Act 1974.
However, at first instance, it was held that there were special circumstances, and so the Claimant had to pay the costs under s. 70(10).
The Defendant submitted that each bill was to be considered individually. This was rejected on the basis that there was only one order for assessment, and so the costs as a whole should be considered.
The Court also held that “special circumstances” cannot apply simply because if the bills were looked at separately, a 20% reduction on each would be required for costs to be payable.
As a result, the Claimant’s appeal was allowed, and they were awarded the costs of the proceedings, and of the appeal.
21.01.2014Orange v Taylor  EW Misc B43 (CC)
Key areas: RTA; success fee; Part 45; County Court
This was an appeal from a Detailed Assessment.
The Claimant was driving along a road when a tree fell onto his car, causing him injuries. The Defendant (the land owner) settled for £100,000 plus costs.
The appeal was over whether the case was a “road traffic accident” which would attract a fixed 12.5% success fee under CPR 45. The Defendant submitted it was; the Claimant that it was not, which, given the liability issues, entitled him to a 100% success fee. At first instance, the Court held that it was an RTA because the injuries resulted from the Claimant driving a car.
The Claimant appealed, submitting that the injuries would still have occurred if he was walking along the road when the tree fell on him. The Defendant submits that on a simple reading, the tree hit his car, which led to the injuries.
The Court noted that the Court of Appeal had held that the use of the phrase “arising out of” in relation to RTAs was wide-ranging, and covered this situation.
As a result, the Claimant’s appeal was dismissed.
15.01.2014Rehill v Rider Holdings Ltd.  EWCA Civ 42
Key areas: party’s conduct; Court of Appeal
This case was to determine costs arising from a RTA.
In the main action, at first-instance, the Claimant had been held 30% contributory negligent. On appeal, this was raised to 50%.
Before proceedings were issued, the Defendant had conceded liability in full, but after the Claimant had rejected its offers of £75,000 and then £100,000, these were withdrawn and they raised contributory negligence.
After proceedings were issued the Defendant offered to settle for £40,000, and made subsequent offers, none of which were accepted. The case ultimately settled for £17,500, and the Claimant was ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs from when its offer of £40,000 expired, and although the Judge held that the claim was inflated, awarded him costs up to that date.
The Defendant appealed on the grounds that its earlier offers should be taken into account, even though the medical evidence was uncertain when they were made; and the Claimant’s dishonesty should be taken into account.
The Claimant submitted that there was no suggestion when the offer of £40,000 was made that costs to that date would not be paid.
On appeal, the Court held that it was unreasonable to reject the offer of £100,000, and ordered him to pay the Defendant’s costs from when it expired.
The Court also held that the Defendant’s offer to pay “reasonable costs” could include those relating to inflating the case.
However, because the Defendant had not filed an N260 for the appeal hearing, it was ordered to pay the costs of Detailed Assessment.
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