A costs judge has told a claimant they cannot challenge a solicitor’s bill which was agreed and approved more than four years ago.
Claimant Vivek Rattan asked the High Court to look again at the £340,000 paid with his approval in December 2014 to London firm Carter-Ruck. The costs were paid to the firm after the claimant secured, through his solicitors, an agreed $500,000 in damages from a bank over a potential mis-selling claim.
Rattan had issued an application for assessment of the bill in March 2015 and served his points of dispute six months later. These included complaints about the nature of the bill and size of counsel’s fees, and allegations about failings in the conduct of the bank litigation.
But in Rattan v Carter-Ruck Solicitors, Master Leonard said the firm’s bills of costs were fully itemised and the receipt of £340,000 was clearly reported to the claimant. The sums involved were authorised by the claimant in an agreed arrangement from which he benefitted, and it was wrong to suggest the firm was preferring its own interests. The client was not forced into approving these arrangements, and Carter-Ruck had made clear it would continue to act if the advice on settlement was not accepted. The claim would likely have been struck out had it not been for the assessment application being denied.
Master Leonard added: ‘The suggestion that the defendant deliberately advised him to settle at an undervalue, based as it is upon that proposition, appears to me to be both unfair and, again, insupportable.’
The most likely outcome of any detailed assessment, the Master concluded, was that Carter-Ruck’s costs would be set at the amount Rattan had freely agreed.
In any case, the court found, Rattan had delayed making the application for a detailed assessment for over three years, and his bid for an extension of time should be refused. The Master said there was no good reason for the delay, even taking into account Rattan's family difficulties and his status as a litigant in person.
‘Requesting a detailed assessment hearing requires only the completion of a form, the filing of some papers and the payment of a fee,’ the Master added. ‘On the evidence the claimant could have done that at any time, just as he could have instructed solicitors if he needed to. He did not act until he was effectively forced to do so.’