The personal injury firm at the centre of a row over a local government grant to renovate its offices has been the subject of a series of wasted costs orders in the county court.
Bolton firm Asons Solicitors has been embroiled in controversy since it emerged that it had received a £300,000 grant from Bolton Council, which attracted complaints from rival law firms and opposition councillors.
Documents from Nottingham County Court obtained by the Gazette, show that Asons was ordered to meet the ‘wasted costs’ of several defendants, including insurance companies Liverpool Victoria, Zurich and AGEAS, over PI claims. The claims were discontinued by consent of the parties.
One of the documents seen by the Gazette is a Tomlin order (a form of consent order) signed by both Asons and a defendant solicitors’ firm.
The Tomlin order states that Asons makes no admissions of being reckless or making a false statement of truth. It is not known how much Asons was asked to pay in total, though the Gazette has seen one costs schedule from a defendant law firm, payable by Asons, that amounts to more than £249,000.
Three insurance companies have told the Gazette that they were aware of orders being made against Asons.
Earlier this month the Gazette reported that Asons had agreed to pay insurance giant AXA £113,000 to settle another dispute over costs.
According to AXA, Asons admitted to ‘falsely and systematically’ inflating its costs in 65 PI cases and agreed to pay the insurer £70,000 plus interest and around £40,000 in legal costs.
The firm denied acting fraudulently and said it had referred the matter to the regulator. A spokesperson said that following AXA’s complaint an internal investigation was immediately undertaken and new procedures instigated.
Asons spurred controversy in its home town after it was given a ‘secret’ £300,000 grant by Bolton Council.
The grant, awarded under the ‘emergency powers’ procedure, was for Asons to refurbish its new offices in Bolton’s Churchgate area.
An independent audit into the grant is being carried out by KPMG and has yet to be published.
In a separate development, the firm’s latest filings at Companies House show that it shortened its accounting year ending May 2017 so that it ended on 30 November 2016.
In a notice on its website at the end of last month the firm said it was ‘actively looking to acquire law firms’ after a ‘strong financial year’.
According to Companies House, accounts made up to 31 May 2016 are overdue. At the time of publication the accounts, which were due on 28 February, had not been published.
In a statement, Asons said: ‘The court has dealt with this matter and Asons was not a party to any proceedings. We simply represented our clients. Asons has not been associated with any wrongdoing or acting recklessly. Any court orders are consent orders between ourselves and the defendant solicitors and have simply been sealed by the court.
‘They have not been ordered by the court for any wrongdoing. It is our understanding that other law firms were also affected in the same manner as ourselves. Asons does not instruct experts directly and utilises medical agencies. We cannot control the actions of external third parties and rely upon the professionalism of the agencies and the doctors used by them.
‘We are very pleased at the recent release of our six-month accounts showing £800,000 profits and look forward to building upon this success.’