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Orwin v The British Coal Corporation, Supreme Court Costs Office

7 May 2003
The issues

Costs – Counsel’s fees.

The facts

This action was an action for infringement of copyright brought by Mr Orwin against The British Coal Corporation. Application was made to strike out. The Application was dismissed and the Defendants were ordered to pay 75% of the costs. The Claimant was legally aided. At the Detailed Legal Aid Assessment, Counsel’s fees were reduced substantially. One item was the subject of Appeal from the Costs Judge to the Judge, namely the brief fee of £15,500.00 for the Application to strike out. This was reduced to £5,000.00. The Application was listed for 1 day, preparation time of 9Ω days was claimed, together with a further 12.75 hours in respect of a draft Chronology and Skeleton Argument. Both the latter items were disallowed entirely. Appeal was made on behalf of Claimant’s Counsel.

The decision

1. The basis on which the costs of the legally assisted person were to be assessed was the standard basis. The costs had to be proportionate in relation to the matters in issue and reasonable in amount.

2. The Brief fee for Defendant’s Counsel had been £6,500.00. Whilst it was correct (Simpons Motor Sales -v- Hendon Corporation 1964) that it was not a sound principle to treat the fee paid by the other party as the appropriate yardstick, it was nonetheless a factor of weight, although not conclusive. Since 1964 and in particular under the CPR where Summary Assessment had proved a very useful tool in doing justice and preventing unnecessary applications, it must be the case that looking at the fees incurred by the imposing party has become a more important factor.

3. 12 days preparation was disproportionate. The fact that it is possible for experienced professionals to spend disproportionate amounts of time on matters was underlined by the fact that in this Appeal the Appellant’s Counsel had spent 45 hours and the Solicitors 36 hours, notwithstanding that the amount in issue was £10,500.00.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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