Harvey and Others -v- Scott Rees & Co : 70% of sums deducted by the Solicitors refunded

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...it would be wrong, in my view, for Scott Rees to rely upon whatever deficiencies there are in their own accounting system in order to prolong the process and produce yet further bills. The bills we have, in my judgment, are capable of assessment

District Judge Bellamy, judgment paragraph 11

These were eight cases involving the deduction of fees from compensation in road traffic accident claims which were dealt with together because they involved the same Defendants and the same arguments. The dates referred to below relate specifically to Mr.Harvey's case, but all eight cases involved similar chronologies.

When the cases came to us it became clear that the clients had not been properly billed, because only the invoice for the sums deducted from damages had been sent to the client when the case ended in December 2016 (and obviously without knowing the overall amount billed, it is impossible to know whether the deduction is reasonable)

We asked for delivery of the other bills covering the costs paid by the third party (which of course must have been raised in order for Scott Rees to take the fees; they had just not been sent to the client)

The other bills were then delivered to us in October 2017, and were dated on various dates in September 2016

We applied for assessment under s.70(1) in November 2017 on the basis that the statute bill (the statute bill being the various bills for each matter taken as a series) had been delivered for the first time in October

Scott Rees then argued that in fact that the bills covering the costs received from the third party  had individually been sent to the clients when raised, and that as a result the claims were out of time. We were told that the bills had not been posted with covering letters and that they were just put in an envelope and sent out in the post. The clients all checked back through their correspondence and could find no record. They were adamant that, if they had received an unexplained bill, they would have queried it.

The matter was then listed for a preliminary issue to "ascertain the date of delivery of the Defendants bills of costs and whether or not the Claimants are out of time to challenge the bills".

At 4.30 on 9th April 2018 (the date on which Scott Rees were due to file their evidence on the preliminary issue) they conceded that the individual bills were not in fact delivered at the time that they were raised.

Scott Rees were invited to concede the preliminary issue and move on to assessment of the bills attached to the Claim Form, but refused to do so, instead wanting to deliver new statute bills.

Scott Rees then issued an application asking the Court to set aside the preliminary issue order, their aim being to persuade the Court to order delivery of new statute bills, and that was the issue determined at this hearing.

District Judge Bellamy, sitting in the Sheffield District Registry of the High Court, refused the application for the reasons set out in the judgment, and directed that the assessment should continue in respect of the original bills.

Just over a week after DJ Bellamy's decision the Defendant, on 30th May, accepted part 36 offers that had been made in December 2017, refunding a total of £7,610.75 that had been deducted from damages in respect of legal fees, with one client alone receiving a refund of just under £2,800. In all that is a refund of just over 70% of the deductions they had made across these cases.

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