Points of dispute in solicitor and client assessments: it’s in the detail

AINSWORTH v STEWARTS LAW [2019] EWCA Civ 897

This was an appeal from a decision of the Senior Costs Judge Master Gordon-Saker made in the course of a detailed assessment hearing proceeding under s70 Solicitors Act 1974.

The Master had summarily dismissed the claimant’s points of dispute related to work done on documents, on grounds that they did not further the overriding objective. Specifically, they were not, “to the point”. They did not summarise all of the particular objections to the specific points which the claimant wished to advance at the hearing so that the court and the defendant knew or knew sufficiently the case the defendant had to meet.

His Honour Judge Klein dismissed the appeal, finding that the Master’s decision was robust but one that was open to him in the context of his case management functions and in furthering the overriding objective. He accepted that if the claimant had been allowed “to conduct the hearing in whatever way he liked for as long as he liked” it would have had to have been adjourned part-heard, unnecessarily.

“the claimant would have had to identify each item objected to, state why and then in respect of each the defendant would have had to go into the file and consider the claimant’s instructions on the point.  Whether consent was given to incur the item, whether the correct fee earner was involved and whether the time claimed was reasonable.”

AINSWORTH v STEWARTS LAW [2019] EWCA Civ 897