The costs fallout from the high-profile Belsner case began today with the losing claimant being ordered to pay £155,000 within two weeks.
The Court of Appeal today ordered that Darya Belsner, represented by checkmylegalfees.com, should pay costs on account of £130,000 after its ruling was handed down last month.
The claimant must also immediately repay the £25,000 she was awarded on account after initially winning her personal injury case in the High Court.
In Belsner v CAM Legal Services, the Court of Appeal ruled that a Norfolk firm made fair and reasonable deductions from Belsner's damages when it represented her in a claim. Master of the rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos said the legal ombudsman scheme was a cheaper and more effective method of querying solicitors’ bills and that it was ‘unsatisfactory’ that firms such as checkmylegalfees.com could adopt a business model which allowed them to bring expensive High Court litigation.
It is likely that the defence costs in Belsner will come to around £270,000 for the appeal alone, subject to assessment if not agreed. Recoverable costs from the initial trial may be as much as £50,000.
It is also understood that around 1,000 other claims handled by CMLF were stayed pending a decision in Belsner, including some that had involved court hearings. Even if the costs involved for each case are as little as £1,000, the cumulative total would add up to £1m.
The Gazette has contacted CMLF for comment on the Court of Appeal order. It is not clear how Belsner was funded, but there was some insight into how the firm runs its cases in the Edwards v Slater and Gordon judgment earlier this year. CMLF founder Mark Carlisle said there was a lack of an ATE market for adverse costs orders in solicitor-own client costs assessments and that his firm Clear Legal Limited (which trades as CMLF) had stepped in to plug the gap by providing the indemnity itself.
According to the most recent accounts filed by Checkmylegalfees.com Limited, covering the year ended 30 June 2021, the company had net assets of £777.
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