Rising star shipping firm fined £50,000

Fast-growing shipping and offshore specialist Curtis Davis Garrard has been hit by an exceptionally high wasted costs order of around £50,000.
In a ruling leaked to The Lawyer last week, Mr Justice Rix says partner Mark Davis “has been negligent, not in just one respect, but in many”, while acting on behalf of shipping company Lowline (PSV).
The application for the order was brought by Norton Rose, acting for Direct Aviation, after a series of hearings about the cruise ship Edinburgh Castle. The vessel was labelled “the plague ship” by the Scottish media after suffering mechanical breakdowns, ticket cancellations and a Legionnaires disease scare, and was twice featured on the BBC's Watchdog programme.
Lowline accused Direct of violating an agreement to market holidays exclusively on the Edinburgh Castle, but Norton Rose argued that there was material non-disclosure of the ship's operational difficulties and Lowline's perilous financial state, and if the court had been aware of the full facts at a hearing on 22 December 1998, the case would have failed. Mr Justice Rix's judgment did not support Direct's claims of negligence or causation, but agreed that Davis was “seriously at fault”.
Mark Havelock-Allan QC, acting for Direct, says the costs are likely to top u50,000, including £18,000 for unsuccessfully fighting the cost order application last week.
Davis, who is considering an appeal, says the urgent nature of such ex parte applications means they are prepared “with less than full knowledge”.
“I fully accept that there are lessons to be learned from this ruling as to the appropriate level of inquiry and disclosure,” he says.
Curtis Davis' bill is likely to be covered by SIF.
Curtis Davis Garrard is continuing to expand its shipping team with the appointment of Norton Rose solicitor William Cecil, who joins the firm to work with partners Charles and Mike Allen who left Herbert Smith in December.