Thai Trading case may go to House of Lords

A PETITION for leave to appeal in the Thai Trading v Taylor case has been lodged at the House of Lords – challenging the Court of Appeal's decision that contingency fee cases are no longer contrary to public policy.

In the Appeal Court in February, Lord Justice Millett held that it is lawful for solicitors to take cases on a contingency fee basis as long as they do not charge an uplift fee – a situation previously seen as contrary to public policy.

Up until the Thai Trading judgment, contingency fee-type arrangements were not allowed, except as stipulated in the legislation allowing for conditional fees.

The petition was lodged last week, signed by Lord Thomas of Gresford QC and Gordon Wignall of 1 Dr Johnson”s Buildings, who represent Thai Trading. It argues that Lord Millett did not have the power to overturn this particular area of law without parliamentary intervention.

The petition has been lodged out of time – appeals are supposed to be lodged within a month of the case being heard – and Thai Trading now has to give the court £18,000 security for costs within a week.

The defendant's case involved a solicitor, Wilfrid Taylor of Reading firm Taylors, acting for his wife who would only be paid if she won her claim. Taylor said: “I will be fighting this till the end.”

Law Society head of solicitors remuneration David Hartley said that Lord Millett's decision increased access to justice for the general public and required the Law Society to change its practice rule banning contingency fees apart from conditional fees.

Irwin Mitchell partner and Law Society presidential candidate Michael Napier said solicitors would be “disappointed” if the case were overturned because the decision “moved fee arrangements into the modern world”.

Napier added it would be good if the House of Lords clarified what is a “confused area difficult for solicitors”.