The High Court has rejected a client’s bid for a wasted costs order against his former solicitors – despite being heavily critical of repeated failings in running the case.

Deputy Master Grimshaw was asked to rule on the ‘somewhat unusual’ application in Tarboush v Cassam for a wasted costs order against east Midlands firm Hegarty LLP.

The claimant had suffered severe injuries after a road traffic accident but his claim was beset by procedural failures culminating in him being unrepresented at the final strike out hearing last October. Grimshaw said the case served as an example of why parties should not ‘bury one’s head in the sand’ when problems in litigation arise.

Before the application could be heard, the defendant settled its wasted costs application against Hegarty without the involvement of the claimant. His new lawyers objected to this, meaning the WCO hearing went ahead, albeit with the claimant demanding an order in relation to Hegarty.

Grimshaw said the claimant was effectively seeking a form of indemnity to protect himself in case the defendant went after him for further costs payments.

While the deputy master was critical of Hegarty’s conduct, he said the court was not able to grant any wasted costs order in these circumstances.

‘Should the defendant pursue the claimant for any of the remaining costs, the claimant could bring a claim against Hegarty for professional negligence to recover, or seek an indemnity for, the same,’ said Grimshaw. ‘That would be the more appropriate route to deal with the issues between the parties, rather than through the summary wasted costs procedure.’

The court heard that after the personal injury claim was issued in 2019, quantum was disputed and the claimant was given until March 2021 to serve medical expert evidence.

This deadline was missed, prompting the court to make an unless order. Again the evidence was not served as required and instead the claimant made an application for relief from sanctions.

Joint statements were then supposed to be filed by November 2022 but the claimant failed to comply with this due to what was called ‘oversight’ on the part of his solicitors.

Finally, the defendant’s application to strike out the claim due to procedural failings was to be heard last October. The claimant was unrepresented after his solicitor emailed the court in late morning on the day of the hearing, saying he would not be attending and seeking another unless order.

The deputy master insisted that the hearing should proceed and struck the claim out.

Hegarty had agreed with the defendant to pay a total of £25,000 in wasted costs. It accepted the delays in running the claim were ‘reprehensible’ but now submitted that the defendant had been compensated for those failings.

Grimshaw had ‘little difficulty’ in finding Hegarty’s conduct was improper, unreasonable and/or negligent, citing repeated failures by the solicitor ‘caused by his own inactions and lack of compliance with court orders’.