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Bill Mis-Certification

Rob Street PIC

 

 Rob Street highlights the issue of mis-certification of a Bill of Costs.
Jagjit Bamrah v Gempride Limited (2014) SCCO – Master Leonard 05 March 2014

Ever since 27 March 1998 it has been established that the mis-certification of a Bill of Costs is a serious issue and the Judgment of Lord Justice Henry in Trevor Raymond Bailey v IBC Vehicles Limited [1998] ewca Civ 566 is still good law.  Lord Justice Henry stated:

“……requires the Solicitor who brings proceedings for taxation to sign the Bill of Costs.  In so signing he certifies that the contents of the Bill are correct.  That signature is no empty formality.  The Bill specifies the hourly rates applied, and the care and attention uplift claimed.  If an agreement between the receiving Solicitor and his client (here the Trade Union) restricted (say) the hourly rate payable by the client, that hourly rate is the most that can be claimed or recoverable on taxation (see General of Berne insurance Company v Jardine Re Insurance Management Limited).  The signature of the Bill of Costs under the rules is effectively the Certificate by an Officer of the Court that the receiving party’s Solicitors are not seeking to recover in relation to any item more than they have agreed to charge their client under a contentious business agreement.”

Despite the crystal clear guidance provided by Lord Justice Henry this issue has recently been revisited by Master Leonard in the SCCO in Jagit Bamrah v Gempride Limited.

The costs in question related to a personal injury tripping claim; liability was not an issue and the claim settled for £50,000.00 following a Part 36 Offer.

Detailed Assessment proceedings were commenced in July 2013 and the usual Detailed Assessment procedural steps were undertaken; in the event, it subsequently transpired that certain statements made by the receiving party were “untrue”.  Indeed, the receiving party had advised that Before the Event Insurance was not available and had claimed an hourly rate of £48.00 in excess of the terms of the Conditional Fee Agreement (£96.00 with the success fee).

Consequently, an application was made by the paying party for an order, inter alia, for the entirety of the receiving party’s costs to be disallowed.

Master Leonard considered whether the mis-certification of the Bill of Costs constituted a breach of duty and referred to the lead authority of Bailey v IBC Vehicles Limited and it was held that by falsely certifying and hourly rate in excess of the contractual rate that the Claimant was indeed in breach of her duty to the Court.  Furthermore, the Claimant’s “untrue” response with regard to the availability of alternative funding, was also found to be unreasonable and improper pursuant to CPR 44.11(1)(b).

Given the learned master’s findings, the Claimant’s costs were severely restricted but it was held that to completely disallow all costs would be “unduly harsh”.  The paying party was also awarded the costs incurred as a result of the Claimant’s actions.

Our comment:

The mis-certification of a Bill of Costs remains a serious offence and also supplying misleading information can result in significant reductions to claims for costs.  The published Judgment also highlights the Court’s wide discretion to disallow part of the costs.

 

 

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