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Lack of procedure for conditional fee arrangements almost collapses case; Lords three years behind other courts
The House of Lords has been forced to introduce conditional fee arrangement (CFA) procedures three years after they were introduced by other courts. This comes after a costs case almost collapsed because it had no rules in place. Claimants in a long-running copyright law case faced not being paid the CFA uplift after the Clerk of Parliaments, the Lords' equivalent of a costs judge, upheld the paying party's argument that the costs claim could not be recognised as the Lords had no procedure to handle it. This was taken to the Lords' Appeal Committee, comprised of Law Lords, which ruled that the costs judge should not have ruled out in principle the recovery of the percentage uplift. The committee ruled that as CFAs are sanctioned in the High Court and the Court of Appeal by way of the Access to Justice Act 1999, then it naturally follows that they should also apply in the Lords. The Appeal Committee also held that CFAs may in future be made by parties to appeals in the Lords.
"There is no reason why CFAs should not be made in intellectual property cases, including in the House of Lords" Jonathan Turner, Stone Buildings
Previously, the Lords did not mind not being subject to the 1999 act and was happy to design procedures on a case-by-case basis. However, this case, Designers Guild Ltd Russell Williams, was the first CFA costs case in the Lords. In a previous case the question of whether uplift should be paid did not arise as the appeal to the Lords failed. The fact that the Lords had done nothing to implement CFA procedures has surprised the legal profession. Stone Chambers barrister Jonathan Turner, who acted for Designers Guild, which was seeking the uplift, said: "I was surprised when it was pointed out that the House of Lords had not yet recognised CFAs, even though it was an important part of the reforms introduced by the Lord Chancellor in 1999. I am quite relieved by the ruling, as the point had not crossed my mind when I agreed to do the appeal on a CFA." He added: "There is no reason why CFAs should not be made in appropriate intellectual property cases, including in the House of Lords."