Mischief making with Statement of Status

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Acting for the Defendant insurer where Claimant’s solicitor failed to provide a “statement of status” of each fee earner for whom work was claimed in every bill of costs that they served.

A test case was selected (Sharp v Aviva Insurance Limited) and an application made to strike out the bill of costs on the basis that it was miscertified as to completeness to such an extent that it had a material impact upon the ability of the paying party and the court to accept its accuracy.

In a reserved written judgment, Regional Costs Judge Baldwin held that the bills were miscertified and had a “material impact upon the ability of the paying party and the court to accept its accuracy”.

The court held that the Claimant’s behaviour created a mischief, suggesting that the status of such signatures is devalued when, in fact, it is of the utmost importance. The practice was not in the spirit of the CPR and directly undermines the status of the signature to the bill. The court held that the failure to specify the status of the fee earner at all material times in the bill did not comply with PD 47 para. 5.11(2) and the bill was struck out.

This was the lead case of over 80 cases where the identity, legal qualification and post qualification experience of the fee earners who had actually done the work was deliberately omitted from the bill of costs, a practice used to avoid challenges to the high rates claimed for lower grade fee earners.

The court found that where this practice has a material effect upon the ability of the paying party and the Court to accept the accuracy of a bill of costs then it should be struck out. This case is persuasive authority that can be used to challenge this practice so as to provide transparency as to who has done the work claimed in the bill of costs together with their legal qualifications and experience.

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