A former client seeking to challenge a City firm’s bill delivered nearly five years ago has been dealt a fresh blow by judges.
Claimant Vivek Rattan wanted to appeal an order made by Master Leonard in June after Rattan asked the court to look again at £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 issued an application for assessment of the bill in March 2015 and served his points of dispute six months later. After the points of dispute were served, no procedural step was taken in the assessment proceedings until December 2018.
Handing down a judgment that was amended on 19 June, Master Leonard said the firm’s bills were fully itemised and the receipt of £340,000 was reported to the claimant. He refused Rattan’s application for an extension of time to apply for a detailed assessment.
Rattan applied for permission to appeal, which was refused on paper by Mr Justice Jay on 29 October. He made a renewed application for permission to appeal. Mr Justice Martin Spencer heard oral submissions from Rattan's barrister, Ken Rogers of 10 Kings Bench Walk, today.
After an hour-long hearing, Spencer J refused to grant permission.
Rogers made a ‘strong point’ that the obligation to further the overriding objective falls on both parties. However, Spencer J said: 'In my judgement the master was right to treat the obligation to claim a hearing date as resting principally on the claimant. This was the claimant's application for a detailed assessment, the claimant's wish to challenge the agreement which had been reached at settlement in December 2014, where the defendant solicitor would be paid £340,000...
'The defendant gave the claimant a significant period of time to do it before eventually applying to strike out the proceedings. The proceedings were potentially only to the benefit of the claimant. In these circumstances he had the obligation to make the application for a hearing date.
'The decision whether to grant an extension of time is, in my judgement, very much in the master's discretion. I do not discern in the judgment of the master any error in the exercise of discretion... I find myself in agreement with the order and reasons of Mr Justice Jay. The application for permission to appeal is refused.'
Rogers represented Rattan pro bono. Spencer J said much of the court's work 'depends upon the generosity of people providing their time pro bono and the court always appreciates that - therefore I am very grateful to you'.