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Guy v Castle Morpeth Borough Council, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne County Court on appeal from the Morpeth County Court, 9 January 2006

21 July 2006
The issues

Costs – CFA – whether law costs draftsman entitled to uplift under CFA of whether his fees were a disbursement

The facts

The Claimant had a tripping accident in October 2002 and sued for damages. Liability was admitted and damages subsequently agreed together with an Order for costs. The Claimant’s solicitors instructed a law costs draftsman to prepare a Bill of Costs. The matter went to assessment before the District Judge. Among the items claimed from the Defendant were the costs draftsman’s charge for preparing the bill, in the sum of £183.30 and the costs of the draftsman’s appearance before the District Judge which amounted to £951.40. The costs were incurred under a contract between the solicitor and the costs draftsman. The Defendant did not dispute liability for the costs. The dispute was whether those costs were fees for the purposes of section 58 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 or whether they were part of the solicitors’ basic charges or profit costs under the CFA in which event they would attract an uplift in respect of the success fee.

The decision

The appeal would turn on the terms of the CFA and its proper construction. The CFA drew a clear distinction between basic costs and disbursements. Disbursements were defined as comprising “payments we make on your behalf such as Court fees, experts fees, etc”.

The phrase “solicitor agent” is not ambiguous and clearly does not cover non-solicitors. If there were any ambiguity the ambiguity should be construed in the manner most favourable to the client which in this instance would mean a stricter interpretation contended for by the paying party.
The District Judge did not earr in his finding that the work undertaken by the firm of costs draftsman fell outside that for which a success fee was payable under the CFA.

Appeal dismissed.

Comments

My thanks to John Allen, costs draftsman jdalawcosting@btconnect.com for drawing this case to my attention.

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