Bill of Costs Set Aside
Stuart Waters (Head of Costs) in conjunction with Jane Morel (Head of Private Client and appointed Deputy) make successful submissions to Luton County Court to have set aside the provisional assessment of a Bill of Costs served directly on the protected party.
Prior to instructing us, Mr X was the unsuccessful Defendant in a land and property dispute with his sons. Resulting in a Costs Order being made in favour of the Claimant’s.
During the course of those proceedings an assessment was made of Mr X’s capacity to give instructions. This showed that Mr X lacked capacity. Further, Mr X was represented by Solicitors.
The Claimant’s prepared a Bill of Costs and for reasons unknown served the Bill of Costs directly on Mr X. Instead of being issued to his Solicitor as is usual practice. The result of which was that Mr X, lacking capacity, tried to deal with the detailed assessment himself. He produced Points of Dispute which fell well below the standard required. This ultimately lead the Court, on provisional assessment, declining to consider any of the points raised by Mr X. Awarding the Claimant 100% of their Bill of Costs plus interest and costs of the assessment. Leaving Mr X with a liability of over £7,500 plus costs and interest.
Mr X instructed Ms Morel as Deputy. Jane immediately instructed Mr Waters, Senior Costs Draftsman and Head of Costs at Sternberg Reed to consider the Bill of Costs. This was to essentially see if Mr X had any right of appeal to dispute the Bill of Costs.
Upon consideration of the Bill of Costs, Mr Waters immediately noted a number of issues requiring further consideration:
Mr X lacked capacity and was represented by a Solicitor. Therefore why had the Bill of Costs been served directly on him;
The Claimant is a limited company. They had provided no information as to their VAT status in the Bill, however were claiming VAT;
The hourly rates claimed were far in excess of those considered reasonable and proportionate. Especially for a relatively straight forward proceedings;
Some time claimed within the Bill of Costs was considered to be administrative, duplicative and unrecoverable in nature; and,
The matter had been conducted throughout by a Grade A fee earner, which was dis-proportionate to the proceedings and there had been a serious lack of delegation for tasks which could have been delegated to a lower grade fee earner.
Mr Waters also noted that the Notice of Commencement was flawed and that the Reply to Mr X’s Points of Dispute were some 139 days late, well outside the 21 days allowed under CPR 47.13(2).
He further noted that the Claimant solicitor was attempting to recover costs of the assessment far in excess of the maximum allowed for provisionally assessed costs of £1500 plus VAT and had also completely miscalculated interest.
Mr Waters proceeded to prepare lengthy and detailed submissions which were served on the Court and the receiving party. Thereafter the Court listed the matter for hearing and on 31 July 2019 considered the submissions and ordered that the Provisional Assessment of the Bill of Costs be set aside and for the Claimant to re-serve the Notice of Commencement on Mr X’s Deputy, Ms Morel and for the detailed assessment process to re-start.
This is a fantastic outcome for a very vulnerable person.
Jame Morel is a solicitor and Head of the Wills and Probate Department here at Sternberg Reed, a specialist in dealing with elderly and vulnerable clients. If you want to find out more and see how Jane, Stuart and Sternberg Reed could help you, click HERE
This article does not constitute legal advice and you should contact us directly if you are facing a similar situation.
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