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Cost Disputes Outside The Prescribed Timeframe

Charles Galayini | Thursday, May 11, 2017
Cost Disputes Outside The Prescribed Timeframe

Lawyers are susceptible to cost disputes which can resurface years after their solicitor’s bill has been sent. Cost disputes arise and require an itemised bill of costs to be drawn up meticulously listing every item of work done in relation to the matter and the relevant charge for each. The inconvenience, disruption and hassle of being required to prepare an itemised bill outside of the prescribed timeframes is a serious risk which solicitors face.

The following case notes provide an insight into why lawyers should be very careful when dealing with costs disputes between themselves and their clients.

The following case notes provide an insight into why lawyers should be very careful when dealing with costs disputes between themselves and their clients.

In August 2015, Garling J delivered joint judgements in the matter of Mackowick -V- Hagipantelis and Bickhoff -V- Hagipentelis.

In Mackowick the Plaintiff was injured at work on 14th August 2006. He instructed Brydens and commenced proceedings for compensation in the District Court. On 10th June 2010 at mediation he successfully settled his matter for $230,000 inclusive of costs.

On 4th March 2014, he sought relief against his former solicitors, Brydens asking for a Bill of Costs.

Brydens objected, arguing that pursuant to S.350 Legal Practitioners Act, as 12 months had expired he was out of time.

The Court found in favour of the Plaintiff (client) stating that pursuant to S.728 (1) (a) LPA 2004 The Supreme Court had unfettered power to order the solicitors to give the Plaintiff a bill of costs notwithstanding the expiration of the 12 month period.

In Bickhoff the Plaintiff was injured at work on 26th July 2005. She instructed Brydens to represent her. Proceedings were commenced in the District Court on 31st November 2008. The matter was set down for hearing from 3-5 June 2010 and was settled for $725,000 inclusive of costs on 4th June 2010.

The Plaintiff sought to challenge her Bill of Costs on 20th April 2012 and sought to file an application for an assessment of costs on 28th February 2014. The assessment of costs was filed over 8 years after the accident).

Brydens objected alleging she was out of time pursuant to S.350 LPA.

The Court again found against Brydens (the solicitor) pursuant to S.728 (1)(a) LPA.

In February 2017, the matter of Le -V- Brydens Lawyers Pty Ltd was heard before Schmidt J.

In this matter Mr Le was seriously injured at work in 2005. Mr Le instructed Brydens in 2006 and they commenced proceedings in the District Court in 2007. The matter was heard by Levy DCJ who gave judgement in favour of the Plaintiff. The Defendants appealed but ultimately the matter settled for $650,000 inclusive of costs. Again Brydens were successful, in June 2013.

In October 2014 a bill in assessable form was requested. The solicitor refused as the 12 month time period had expired.

Her honour found in favour of the Plaintiff, client concluding that there was no time limit for refusing an itemised bill imposed by S.332A of the LP Act 2004.

Her honour whole heartedly embraced the ratio of the decision of Garling J in the case of Mackowick and Bickhoff and ordered a bill of costs be provided.

Regardless of the inconvenience or disruption caused by the preparation of an itemised bill, practitioners should take care when asked to provide an itemised bill outside of the prescribed timeframes.

By John Andriano – Andriano & Associates, Accredited Specialist Personal Injury Law

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