A dispute between neighbours over who should pay a £4,000 bill to fix a drain has racked up legal costs of more than £300,000.
Court vs Van Dijk & Anor centres on the dispute in York over who should pay for work carried out on a common private drain. A 2013 decision in the case awarded damages of £4,227.88 plus interest to John Van Dijk and Bernardine Van Dijk.
Hearing an appeal against the decision, Lord Justice Floyd (pictured) noted that it was a ‘regrettable feature’ of the dispute that the litigation was only continuing due to the ‘enormous sums in costs which are at stake’.
According to the judgment, the appellant, Terry Court, faced a costs bill from the Van Dijks of £220,000 – and had herself expended costs of around £89,000.
Floyd said: ‘We do not know where the blame lies. Nevertheless, the adjective “disproportionate” is wholly inadequate to describe the combined expenditure on resolving the question of who pays a £4,000 bill.’
In September 2013, Mr Recorder Tim Kerr QC ruled that Court should pay the costs her neighbours incurred to prevent waste water flooding in their backyard in 2010.
Kerr said the work Court had done by the council to her drain in 2007, when she had flood problems on her own property, had ‘foreseeably caused damage to a neighbour’s land’ and caused ‘substantial interference’ to her neighbour’s drain system.
But the Court of Appeal overturned the decision, as Floyd said the 2007 work did not cause an ‘actionable nuisance’ and was a ‘reasonable step’ to stop waste water flowing onto her land.
He allowed the appeal and made an order to dismiss the claim against her. Lord Justice Sales agreed.