Firm pays plaintiff's costs

A Manchester solicitor set up a company to hold his law firm's lease, which then stayed in the building for two years rent-free while the landlord waged a court battle for rent arrears, the Court of Appeal has heard.
Miller Gardner defended the company, Globe Legal Services Ltd, in the original action, but was in for a shock when a court ruled the law firm was the real defendant and ordered it to pay the plaintiff's costs, believed to be more than £200,000.
One of the firm's partners, Geoffrey Miller, was also named as a defendant, and was declared bankrupt as a result in Salford County Court 1997.
Miller is still allowed by the OSS to work in “approved employment” and remains a consultant at Miller Gardner. The firm now operates from a Chester Road address in Manchester.
A spokesman for Willan Bootland White, who represented the plaintiffs, Globe Equities Ltd, told The Lawyer that the cost order is yet to be taxed but would probably be “in excess of £200,000”.
“We bankrupted Mr Miller and this is the cost action that came out of the previous actions,” he says.
The Court of Appeal ruled that although it would ordinarily be unjust to make a non-party pay costs, the judge was justified in doing so in this case after it heard that the continuance of litigation allowed Miller Gardner to remain in the Southall Street premises for two years rent-free.
Miller Gardner's senior partner, Rodney Gardner says: “We did find the decision surprising. There has been no previous precedent for making a law firm liable for costs when working in the normal course of legal proceedings.”
He says the firm has decided not to appeal.