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underestimate of court fees leads to strike out

23 December 2016

In a case handled by Browne Jacobson LLP, an underestimate of the court fee by the claimant’s solicitors on an employers liability matter has led to its strike out in its entirety by the court, saving an estimated £85,000 in damages.

The claimant Mr Stiff, employed by a construction and plant operator training business Aurelia Ltd claimed to be severely psychologically injured with PTSD and depression, and minor orthopaedic injuries when his vehicle collided with a gate at the entrance to the works. In the course of handling the claim his solicitors provided several schedules estimating financial losses all of which exceeded £50,000. At the point of issue, shortly prior to expiry of limitation, the claimant sought to limit the value of his claim to £50,000 and paid a commensurate court fee.

In a heavily contested application the company argued that the claimant’s actions amounted to an abuse of process following Lewis v Ward Hadaway, and that for limitation purposes the case had not been issued as the wrong fee had been paid. As the wheels of justice had not been set in motion, the court was minded to both strike out and/or give summary judgment for the company, leaving the claimant empty handed and/or facing a costs order.

The increased court fees have caused some controversy. Firms are best advised to avoid the temptation of pitching low as courts are unwilling to entertain claims which abuse the court process.

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