Grainger Plc has been ordered to pay Steptoe & Johnson London managing partner Brendan Patterson £100,000 on account of costs in the long-running saga over a lime tree.

The property company’s subsidiary BPT Ltd must make the payment before 16 December with further costs to be outlined following a detailed costs assessment.

Grainger has also been denied permission to appeal a July ruling that said it did not have permission to enter Patterson’s property and prune the tree in question.

The tree in question
The tree in question

The row centres on a lime tree in the front garden of a north London property owned by Grainger. Patterson, who lives next door, says the tree has caused damage to his property and has launched a separate case against Grainger making allegations of fraud and seeking more than £800,000 in damages.

Grainger, its directors and insurer are being advised by a raft of heavyweight law firms on the matter including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Olswang, Clyde & Co and DWF.

Meanwhile Patterson has instructed his own firm, Steptoe, on the ongoing dispute.

The costs order was handed down on 2 December in the central London county court.

It formed the latest update in the bitter feud which has so far spanned three years. Recent documents to emerge from the dispute include a letter from Freshfields head of commercial dispute resolution James Kennedy to Steptoe on 1 November, which asks the firm to tell its client (Patterson) to stop writing to Grainger’s CEO Helen Gordon in relation to his claims.

The letter reads: “Despite the specific request contained in Grainger’s letter of 31 August 2016, your client continues to correspond directly with Grainger in relation to his various (groundless) allegations of misconduct and fraud against employees and officers of Grainger.

“Please now ensure that, as requested, any further correspondence of this nature either by or on behalf of your client (including by email) is addressed to this firm.”

Earlier correspondence between Patterson, Steptoe, Grainger and its lawyers – and seen by The Lawyer – showed Patterson became a shareholder in the property company shortly after the dispute started, purchasing £10,000 in shares of Grainger.

Patterson told The Lawyer last week the “next stage” of the dispute could include a shareholder derivatives action against the business.

Further documents, including a witness statement filed to the court in December 2014 by Patterson read: “I am the managing partner of Steptoe & Johnson’s London office and also head of the real estate group dealing with both contentious and non-contentious matters. I have over 30 years’ experience in this property sector.”

It goes on to state: “The lack of maintenance of the Lime Tree has caused subsidence to 84 Haberton Road… The roots of the Lime Tree block the drains of 84 Haberton Road and my wife and I have spent approximately £20,000 over the years clearing the drains every 2 to 3 years.”

Grainger was contacted for comment.

Exclusive: Steptoe London head in £800k row over lime tree