The High Court has swatted away another attempt from a former client to get a second look at his case files in order to challenge a law firm’s costs. Master Leonard, sitting in the Senior Courts Costs Office, said Jonathan Whale was entitled to correspondence from Liverpool firm Mooney Everett, upon payment of a fee - but no more.
The client wanted to bring a potential claim over the deduction of costs from the settlement of a 2015 RTA claim, but admitted he had not kept copies of the funding documents.
In the latest of a string of cases where the claimant was represented by cost recovery firm Checkmylegalfees.com, Whale also requested copies of fee invoices, client account ledgers and other correspondence relating to the settlement.
Mooney Everett called Whale's deliver-up application ‘entirely speculative’ and an improper use of the civil justice system.
The claimant argued that the provisions of the solicitors’ accounts rules on receipt, handling, transfer and record-keeping had a bearing on his exercise of rights under the 1974 Solicitors Act. In section 68, in particular, his lawyers argued that the act allowed the High Court to make orders for the delivery of a bill of costs.
But in Whale v Mooney Everett Solicitors, Master Leonard said there was no evidence of misconduct on the part of the law firm to justify any order. The claimant, the judge said, was not owed any fiduciary duties relating to documents that did not belong to him.
The costs master added: ‘If as the evidence indicates the claimant was, during and on the conclusion of the retainer, sent sufficient information to take any necessary advice on applying for the assessment of the defendant’s costs, then no imbalance exists in any material sense. It is not suggested that the claimant was in some way incapable of keeping an adequate record. He just did not do so.’
The judge expressly refused to accept that the firm should supply internal records or copies of funding documents sent more than once.
This is unlikely to be the end of disputes over file disclosure to clients of costs recovery firms. Master Leonard confirmedthat an appeal against his decision in Green v SGI Legal, together with a challenge to Master James’ ruling in Hanley v JC & A Solicitors, will be heard early next month.