CoA could trigger professional negligence wave with ‘plebgate’ ruling, lawyers warn

Litigators could see a rush of professional negligence claims against the sector following the Court of Appeal decision to penalise those that fail to comply with court directions, leading lawyers have warned.

The CoA decision to limit the legal spend in Andrew Mitchell MP’s defamation case against The Sun because his legal team failed to submit a budget on time could trigger a raft of claims against lawyers (27 November 2013).


RPC partner Geraldine Elliott commented: “The ruling could mean we see more professional negligence cases against law firms who fail to submit an accurate costs budget in time. 

“Clients being forced to pay their own costs bills may seek to recover those costs from their lawyers if they think their legal advisers have made a mistake in submitting a costs budget.”

Vannin Capital consultant Nick Rowles-Davies added: “It clearly raises the likely potential for claims against solicitors in these sorts of situations. If a solicitor fails to do his paperwork and leaves his client exposed to greater costs, it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for clients to use the courts to recover fees from the very legal team that represented them.” 

Association of Costs Lawyers chairman Murray Heining said it was the “most important” civil litigation judgment of the year and worked as a clear warning to litigators.

“Those practising in civil litigation, if they have not already reviewed their practices and procedures, must do so now and ensure that they have the resources to ensure compliance with the CPR and all orders made,” he said. “They must also ensure that they have the resources to meet procedural obligations.”

Atkins Thomson partner Graham Atkins is leading the case for Mitchell on a conditional fee basis. Mitchell was told that his budget would be restricted because the firm failed to get a costs budget to the court seven days before a case management hearing in June (7 August 2013).

The firm had attempted to get the order lifted by pleading that as a two-partner firm it should have more time than Simons Muirhead & Burton, which is representing The Sun. The application was rejected.