A Slough firm is facing a wasted costs order after it showed a ‘lackadaisical’ approach to a breach of contract claim it was instructed in, a court has heard.

County court

Fitz Solicitors was instructed on behalf of Van Spall Associates Ltd which had sought £16,000 from JNOAD Ltd, in a claim which began in 2022. Conor Maher, on behalf of JNOAD Ltd, said the claimant’s solicitors had engaged in ‘improper conduct’ by ignoring correspondence.

Maher said that between November 2022 and June last year his clients had received no correspondence from them at all, adding that multiple follow up attempts by email and phone were ignored.

The defendant’s solicitors, Ellis Jones, had received a letter from Fitz saying one of its solicitors had a family bereavement, Reading County Court heard. But there was still a ‘substantial period’ where the defendant had not heard from that solicitor or one of his colleagues, Maher said.

Maher added: ’Continuing in not removing themselves from the record and simply ignoring correspondence is improper.’

In February this year, DJ King at Reading County Court made a directions order and Fitz became in breach after missing deadlines and failing to serve witness evidence.

The claim by Van Spall Associates was ultimately struck out after the claimants failed to pay the trial fee. 

Deputy District Judge Colin Passmore awarded costs against the claimant, but declined to order indemnity costs. ‘I am afraid this sort of conduct is something I have seen even in my relatively short judicial career and whilst it is regrettable and not withstanding the claimant’s solicitors apparently lackadaisical approach to this claim, I am not convinced this is sufficiently out of the ordinary to order indemnity costs.’

But the judge did make an order for Fitz to show cause as to why a wasted costs order should not be made against it for the period from October last year to January this year. ‘I do think this conduct prima facie looks as if it could be understood as negligent conduct’, the judge said. ‘The consequences of the claimant’s solicitors’ behaviour is that the defendants and their solicitors unnecessarily incurred costs to get ready for trial.’

However the judge did not accept that the firm’s behaviour could be considered improper.


This article is now closed for comment.