Taylors wins landmark fees uplift in Lords ruling

In a bizarre costs action before the Lords, a conditional fee arrangement (CFA) that was initially deemed invalid has enabled a law firm to get a landmark 100 per cent uplift on its fees.
The Clerk of Parliaments – the Lords’ equivalent of a costs judge – ruled in February 2002 that a textile company, Designers Guild Limited, which had won a copyright infringement case in the Lords in 2000, could not recoup costs because its CFA was invalid. This was because the Lords at that point had not introduced procedures to handle it.
This decision was appealed successfully before the Lords Appeal Committee, which held that the uplift should not have been ruled out. As a result, the Lords introduced CFA procedures, albeit three years after they were implemented by the other courts.
This week Designers Guild and its lawyers, Blackburn law firm Taylors, eventually had the CFA upheld in the Lords. Alastair Wilson QC of 19 Old Buildings was lead counsel, while Jonathan Turner of Stone Chambers (Steven Gee QC) was the junior on the case.
Also, because of the risks that the firm and its counsel took in running the case, titled Designers Guild Limited v Russell William, the Lords granted it a 100 per cent uplift above its normal fees.
Tony Catterall, senior partner and head of Taylors’ intellectual property department, said: “The senior costs judge [in the Lords] was impressed by the fact that we had obtained counsel’s opinion, stating that the case was genuinely 50-50, and been unable to source adverse costs insurance because of the risk. In those circumstances, a 100 per cent uplift was appropriate.”