Daniel Latham -v- North Costs Limited (formerly North Solicitors Limited) : £2,100 in overcharged legal fees recovered for client but only after a visit by High Court Enforcement Officers

Head-in-Sand Defendant firm ignored two Court Orders

We were pleased to finally resolve this long-running matter this week, which has taken a degree of determination, faced with an opponent that seemed determined to simply ignore court orders.

Mr.Latham will shortly be receiving his refund in full, along with his costs of the whole of the two separate sets of proceedings that were brought on his behalf.

The full details of the case are set out below.

This case demonstrates that we will not be put off by evasion and delaying tactics from our opponents. Where our clients have been overcharged, no matter how small the amount, we will protect their right to fair treatment and will ensure that their refunds are enforced - even if the SRA are slow to resolve things as they should.

Mark Carlisle (Director of Checkmylegalfees.com), 9th August 2019

We were instructed by Mr.Latham in early 2018 when he became concerned that he may have been overcharged following a personal injury case that concluded in November 2015, in which he had been represented by North Solicitors Limited of Blackpool.

Proceedings were issued against North Solicitors Limited (now based in Sheffield) on 10th May 2018 seeking delivery up of their file of papers pursuant to s.68 Solicitors Act 1974. That application was initially dealt with by consent on 5th October 2018 with the solicitors agreeing to deliver the file of papers and a statute bill. They did not do so however, despite the granting of a two week extension, and the application was restored and heard by Master Nagalingam in the Senior Courts Costs Office by telephone on 30th January 2019, by which time North Solicitors Limited had changed its name to North Costs Limited, and was no longer regulated by the SRA. An an order was made for delivery of the papers, together with costs of the proceedings in the sum of £1,540 inclusive of VAT. The Order provided that if the Defendant did not deliver the papers and statute bill by 6th February 2019, its bill would be assessed at nil. The Judge took the unusual step of appending a note to his order explaining the unusual circumstances in that, despite having provided their representatives details for the telephone hearing, when called by the conference provider the defendant's representative refused to take part

In a continuing theme of just ignoring everything North Costs Limited failed to deliver the papers, the result of which was that they are required to refund to Mr.Latham all sums retained by them in the matter. Perhaps unsurprisingly they did not do so, but instead indicated that they could not locate the papers, which meant that (although we were able to deduce that it was in the region of £2,000) the precise sum due could not be ascertained. Despite proposals being put to them to resolve the matter, no substantive responses were received, necessitating further proceedings in the form of an application pursuant to CPR 67.2(1)(b) for an order compelling them to pay whatever sums were due.

In the meantime the Defendant simply continued to ignore the costs order made in January.

We took the view that, although North Costs Ltd were not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, they were regulated prior to the name change, and were certainly regulated at the point that they acted for Mr.Latham. One of the directors of North Costs Limited was and is Christopher James Fry, solicitor of Fry Law Ltd, also of Shefffield (in fact the companies share the same address). The Defendants had even indicated in the course of correspondence that their "client" in this matter was Mr.Fry, that Mr.Fry took over North Solicitors Limited, and that all North Solicitors Limited cases were transferred to Fry Law.

We do not think it was appropriate for Mr.Fry's company to evade payment of the judgment, simply because it applied to a firm of solicitors that was formerly regulated, and in respect of which he had transferred all business to a new firm. A report was submitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in March of this year.

The application came on for hearing, again before Master Nagalingam in the Senior Courts Costs Office, on 17th June 2019, with the Defendant not attending and not being represented. The Court ordered that, unless the Defendant provide a copy of its Cash Account by 5th July 2019, it must pay Mr.Latham the sum of £2,009.43 (that being the sum that we were able to infer from the scant information available) together with interest from November 2015; if the Defendant were able to produce a Cash Account, they were ordered in the alternative to pay the sum due under it, together with interest. The Court made a further order for costs in the sum of £2,155.00

It will not come as a surprise to learn that the Defendant did not produce an alternative Cash Account, and then simply continued to ignore all requests for payment.

Sadly, by mid July – four months after our report - the SRA did not appear to have made any progress whatsoever.

Matters were finally concluded when High Court Enforcement Officers instructed by us attended the premises of North Costs Limited at the Globe Works, Penistone Road, Sheffield (the same address as Fry Law Limited, Mr.Fry's other company) and took payment of the judgment debt.

Mr.Latham was represented at both hearings by Counsel, Mr.Nigel Ffitch of Normanton Chambers.

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We are a team of legal costs experts with over 60 years' experience.

We have dealt with costs arising from almost every legal specialism.

We have conducted cases challenging solicitor's costs at all levels up to and including the Court of Appeal.

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