…as court rules on regional fees

MANCHESTER law firms were given a boost in the Court of Appeal after judges declared that claimants should use local firms and not London firms in Manchester-based cases.

The ruling throws into doubt the ability of London firms to charge London rates in provincial court cases.

The court decided that a judge assessing costs in a previous hearing was wrong to say that the claimant was reasonable to instruct a London firm – charging London prices – in a Manchester case involving asbestos exposure.

“There were many firms of solicitors in the Manchester area very capable of handling the plaintiff's claims,” said Lord Justice May in the Court of Appeal.

Susan Brown, a partner from Reid Minty, the London firm instructed in the case, says: “It was a question of whether it was appropriate for London solicitors to be instructed. And the judge in the previous hearing said it was.

“The Court of Appeal, unfortunately for us, took a different view.”

She says the decision will affect the amount of costs her firm will be able to claim back from the defendant, Co-operative Insurance, but the figures involved would not justify an appeal.

She adds: “It's merely a question of whether an individual can be justified in instructing London solicitors and, if they do so in future, whether London lawyers will be able to recover London rates from losing parties.”

Ann Alexander, managing partner of Manchester medical negligence and personal injury specialists Alexander Harris, says: “If a case can be done in Manchester it should be. Any case that can be done more cost-effectively from our London office is done so. We wouldn't dream of having a Manchester client charged London rates.”