A judge has warned law firms that courts will not tolerate attempts to change court orders for their own advantage.
Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart told claimant firm Rosling King last week that it was verging on ‘contumelious’ [insulting] to produce a draft that its clients would prefer but which ignored court instructions.
In a hearing last week, he said: ‘In my judgement, what occurred in this case must not happen again.
‘Solicitors and counsel are to give effect to court orders; they are not to attempt to manipulate them to their own or their client's perceived advantage.’
The problem stemmed from a draft order sent last year by Rosling King to defendant firm RPC three days after an order given in the Technology and Construction Court. The judge had ordered for costs to be broken down in stages in case the claim failed at an early stage.
Edwards-Stuart said the claimant draft ‘bore almost no relation to what I had directed’ and it was subsequently rejected by RPC, which sent back its own draft.
Rosling King returned the defendant’s draft with extensive amendments and subsequently wrote to the court explaining that it had ‘great difficult’ drafting the order in a way to satisfy the court’s wishes.
Edwards-Stuart said: ‘What Rosling King did in this case was to produce an order that reflected the directions that they or their clients would like to have, and not the directions that the court in fact ordered.
‘That is wholly unacceptable: it is not just unreasonable, it is verging on the contumelious.’
In his judgment, Justice Edwards-Stuart ordered the claimants to pay £6,925 to the defendants’ solicitors within 14 days to recover costs unnecessarily incurred by the delays.
He added: ‘I see no reason at all why the defendants should have to pay the costs that were quite unnecessarily incurred as a result of the claimants’ manoeuvres.’
He rejected claimant submissions that extra costs incurred formed part of the costs reserved to the trial judge, or that the defendant should have made a claim for costs sooner.