Irwin Mitchell rapped on ‘excessive costs’

Irwin Mitchell was criticised last week for “excessive and unreasonable costs” after Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) obtained a cost-capping order against the firm – a court power rarely used.

The order related to a claim by 151 holidaymakers, represented by Irwin Mitchell, against First Choice, alleging that the travel operator’s Hotel Soviva in Tunisia lacked hygiene, causing them to suffer from gastroenteritis.

Irwin Mitchell had run up costs of £1.1m by 2005 and claimed future expenditure of a further £726,000, excluding success fees. FFW believed the figures were too large, as its own costs in 2005 were only £148,000. His Honour Judge MacDuff QC slashed any future costs for Irwin Mitchell by 70 per cent to just £215,000.

FFW partner James Lewis, acting for First Choice, said group action firms will have to ensure reasonable costs, otherwise cost-capping orders could become the norm.

Irwin Mitchell head of international travel litigation Clive Garner said: “Cases such as these require investment if they’re to be contested and we’re disappointed the court hasn’t given full recognition of that fact. We believe all people deserve access to justice and we hope the courts will support our clients in ensuring that costs capping does not fetter that access. We have obtained permission to appeal.”