Eady J rules against hefty costs claim by Schilling

High-profile media lawyer Keith Schilling found that his reputation carried no weight with a High Court judge as he lost an appeal over the costs awarded in DJ Sara Cox’s privacy case.

Mr Justice Eady dismissed Schilling’s attempts to claim a 95 per cent success fee and hourly rates of £450 for Cox’s successful 2001 privacy case against The Sunday People and Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

In doing so, Eady J found that Schilling’s profile and reputation do not mean that he can charge higher costs than lawyers at other firms.

“I don’t see why answering Mr Schilling’s points requires the losing side to pay more than for answering anyone else’s,” said Eady J.

The judgment, handed down on 26 May, also reveals that Schilling produced a range of profiles and interviews “purporting to show the unique qualities of the service offered” to support his case for costs.

In October 2004, costs judge Master O’Hare said that the appropriate costs in the Cox case included a 40 per cent success fee and hourly rates for Schilling of £300-£315.

As Schilling tried to have the costs raised, MGN appealed to have the success fee cut to 5 per cent. Both appeals were dismissed.

Geraldine Proudler, media litigation partner at MGN’s representative Olswang, said: “Success fees have been routinely claimed against the media at the highest possible level, apparently regardless of the realities in the case.

“In upholding the reduction of the success fee from 95 per cent to 40 per cent, the judge said he might have arrived at an even lower percentage himself. It’s a good judgment for media defendants, who will hope this signals the start of the courts injecting a considerable dose of reality into some of the worst excesses of the CFA [conditional fee arrangement] regime in media cases.”

Schilling instructed 5 Stone Buildings’ Martin Farber, while Proudler instructed 39 Essex Street’s Jeremy Morgan QC for MGN.

Schilling declined the opportunity to comment.