The issue of out of time bills being subjected to Costs Assessments has again reared its ugly head. Despite clear guidelines that clients have a 12 month
timeframe in which they must dispute a bill, the Supreme Court has yet again considered a request for an itemised bill well outside the prescribed
timeframe in the recent case of Lukic v De Luca – Leonard (2017).
As in Markoviak v Hagipantelis and Le v Brydens Lawyers Pty Ltd, the Court decided that S.728 LPA 2004 applied to give the court a wide discretion to order
that a bill of costs be provided to the client by the solicitor.
The facts were that the solicitor De Luca – Leonard received instructions from Lukic in May 2010 to run a worker’s compensation case resulting from alleged
bullying. A costs agreement was signed on 14th March 2011. The client Lukic was assessed at 60% WPI entitling her to work injury damages. At mediation
on 2 April 2014 the matter was successfully settled with the client receiving $300,000. On 22nd April 2014, the solicitor rendered a lump sum bill
of $74,000 for costs and disbursements.
The client changed solicitors and on the 31 March 2016 sought to have a bill of costs prepared alleging overcharging.
After a 3 day trial, the court found in favour of the client ordering the solicitor to prepare a bill of costs and finding that the 2004 Act applied and
therefore S.728 LPA 2004 applied.
The question of costs is yet to be resolved although the only issue will be whether the solicitor will be ordered to pay party/party costs or indemnity
It is hard to envisage how much, if any, of the costs the solicitors recovered from a successful case finalised in 3 years earlier, will remain with her
after Supreme Court Proceedings, orders for costs and the costs assessment have been completed. This of course will not take into account the trauma
and aggravation those proceedings will have taken on the solicitor, not to mention the productive work she would have done rather than the time spent
on defending the Supreme Court Proceedings.
By John Andriano, Andriano & Associates, Accredited Specialist Personal Injury Law
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