Campbell judgment rules out CFA means-tests

The House of Lords last week decided that lawyers are not required to means-test clients for conditional fee aggreements (CFAs), even if they are wealthy celebrities.

The Lords threw out the Mirror Group Newspapers’ (MGN) appeal against the success fee charged by West End media boutique Schillings after it won supermodel Naomi Campbell’s privacy claim on a CFA.

Campbell’s appeal to the Lords was the only part of the case fought on a CFA, meaning Schillings charged MGN a success fee uplift of £280,000 as part of more than £1m of costs.

MGN appealed against the fee, claiming it was an infringement of the press’s freedom of expression and also arguing that success fees should be disallowed where a claimant can fund the litigation.

In his judgment, Lord Hoffman said means-testing on an individual basis would be impractical, adding that legislation would be needed to change the law.

After the ruling, Davenport Lyons‘ Kevin Bays, who acted for MGN, called for a cost cap on success fees. An MGN spokesman said the judgment would have a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech.

James Price QC of 5 Raymond Buildings was instructed by Schillings for Campbell. Bays instructed 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square’s Richard Spearman QC.