A law firm owner has successfully challenged a court order to pay a personal injury diagnosis provider around £39,000 for unpaid fees.

Solicitor Arif Barber partially won his appeal in Barber (t/a Barber & Co Solicitors) v Medico Services Ltd after The Honourable Mrs Justice Tipples agreed the original order needed to be ‘substantially reduced’.

The respondent, Medico Legal Services, had claimed for dozens of unpaid invoices, with the dispute largely centred around whether fees should be paid when cases were unsuccessful or where appointments were missed. That argument was lost by Barber, but the amount payable was vastly reduced on appeal after Tipples said the company had not lost all the money claimed because their individual medical experts had not claimed any loss against MSL.

The company had issued proceedings against Barber, trading as Lancashire firm Barber & Co Solicitors, claiming damages for outstanding fees for medico-legal services worth £26,000, plus interest.

MSL alleged it had a contract with the solicitor to pay the cost of expert reports, retrieving medical records and the cost of any missed examination reports. In total there were 85 invoices which made up the purported shortfall in fee payments.

Barber disputed the agreement and said any instruction to MSL was contingent upon certain criteria being met on each and every invoice.

Following a trial last July, His Honour Judge Luba QC concluded ‘without any hesitation’ that MSL has established the contract requiring payments.

Barber’s appeal was partly based on an apparent understanding that MSL would not render any charges for unsuccessful cases which were unsuccessful (he accepted that 11 of the 85 matters had concluded, which amounted to around £4,100). 

Tipples J said the doctor’s fees must, as a matter of common sense, include any cancellation fees charged by the doctor, and the solicitor had made it plain in his medical expert letter that he would be responsible for these fees.

But, allowing the appeal in part, Tipples J said the trial judge’s approach to the assessment of damages was wrong by awarding MSL the full amount. She noted Barber’s acceptance that he was liable for £4,100 and remitted the matter to the county court to assess the remainder.