Friday 7 October 2022
This is an appeal against the order of Lavender J dated 17/6/21 overturning a decision of DJ Bellamy.
The dispute is between a solicitor and their former client.
The issue is what is the total of a solicitor’s bill of costs for the purposes of the one- fifth rule in
s.70(9) of the Solicitors Act 1974. This rule provides that if a client assesses his solicitor’s bill and reduces the total by 20% or more the client will be entitled to the costs of the assessment.
The concern arises in low value PI claims where the sol’s costs are paid first by taking the fixed costs that are recovered from the opponent and then deducting a further sum from the damages prior to any statute bill being delivered.
The issue on appeal is where the solicitor elects to deliver a bill for 2,731.90 rather than a bill for 1,571.50 what is the amount of that bill for the purposes of the one-fifth rule.
The DJ awarded client her costs of the assessment on basis that the amount of the bill was 2,731.90.
The Appellant submits that the decision of Lavender J is detrimental to legal consumers and will have the effect of restricting clients’ opportunities to challenge their solicitor’s bill and of allowing solicitors to enhance their chances of resisting an order for costs.
The Appellant therefore submits that the second appeals test is met.
The judge’s decision is contrary to the rationale behind s.70(9) of the Solicitors Act, the purpose of which is to provide certainty for the parties in respect of which party will pay the costs of the assessment.
Lavender J in contrast accepted the solicitor’s argument and held that the bill totalled 1,571.50.