Litigants in dispute with their lawyers over £365,000 in unpaid bills have been denied the right to submit an expert’s report that was never asked for.

Costs Judge Nagalingam said the defendants in Laytons LLP v Savage & Ors had been given ‘enough bites of the cherry’ by previous courts.

The court heard that City firm Laytons brought a claim in 2021 relating to 22 invoices from eight clients who had instructed it for more than a year. The clients, listed as defendants in these proceedings, sought to challenge the funding arrangement and set out arguments for a detailed assessment of the legal fees and a limit on the amount that could be recovered.

But despite a court’s unless order, the defendants failed to make an application for detailed assessment until 10 months after the deadline. The costs judge then made an order last March for a common law assessment of certain items on the bill but not a general assessment of reasonableness.

The defendants sought to submit a 10-page report from costs experts Kain Knight, arguing this would assist with the assessment and explain what it was they were trying to say about the fees invoiced.

Laytons submitted that the report was an inadmissible attempt to widen the scope of the judge’s order. In particular the firm challenged a line in the report saying the judge had required an opinion from costs experts, when the order had made no reference to such a requirement.

Nagalingam stressed that he made no criticism of Kain Knight, which acted in good faith, but he said there was nothing in his order from last March requiring the report.

‘The report has no standing in this case whatsoever,’ added the judge. ‘It may be a document which helps the defendants organise their thoughts, but ultimately the report represents a tale of what might have been.

‘It is predicated on the defendants having actually taken the steps necessary to secure a statutory assessment, whilst completely ignoring the fact those steps were not taken.’

The judge said the defendants’ long-held intention for the matter to proceed to a Solicitors Act assessment, and that neither the court nor the claimant had stood in the way of that path.

‘The fact that the defendants took no steps to secure an order for detailed assessment is a factual reality of the present,’ he continued.

‘The Kain Knight report… is an attempt to repair the damage that was done a long time ago.’

He ruled that the defendants were not permitted to rely on the Kain Knight report at the assessment of damages hearing, and that they pay the firm’s cost on this issue.


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