The County Court has refused costs protection to a claimant after his solicitors had wrongly told the defendants that a funding agreement was in place.
In Price v Egbert H Taylor & Company Limited, having failed with a claim against his employer, Raymond Price’s representatives, Worcestershire firm Prescott Solicitors, stated that qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) should apply.
But the firm admitted that three years earlier, it had wrongly advised the defendants that the claim was being funded by way of a conditional fee agreement, which provided for a success fee.
Prescotts said this element had been ‘included in the letter in error’ and no pre-commencement funding arrangement had in fact been entered into.
Acting for the defendants, Matthew White from St John’s Chambers told Birmingham County Court that the claimants could not escape from this erroneous communication.
He said the claimant’s solicitor had made a ‘clear and unequivocal’ representation to the defendant, even giving the additional details that the agreement provided for a success fee. The defendant and his solicitors had relied on that representation, it was argued.
White invited the court to find there was probably an oral, or implied, retainer which would be unenforceable, but which would still not mean that QOCS applied.
The claimant’s firm stated no additional costs were caused by its conduct and submitted it would not be just to make a wasted costs order at any stage.
Judge Lopez made a costs order against the claimant.
The judge added: ‘The claimant having represented that there was a pre-commencement funding agreement in place and the defendant having relied upon that representation, the claimant is now estopped from asserting that no such agreement was in place and/or that qualified one-way costs shifting applies.’
The claimant was ordered to pay £5,533 costs of the first hearing and the £8,806 costs of the appeal.