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Wasted costs ordered against Amanda Cunliffe Solicitors and serious concerns raised by trial Judge over conduct

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As well as successfully defending a fast track claim for compensation for personal injuries brought against their insurer client, Haven Insurance Company Limited, Flint Bishop Solicitors later secured a wasted costs order against the firm of solicitors representing the Claimant. During that subsequent hearing, serious criticisms were made by a senior Judge regarding the conduct of Amanda Cunliffe Solicitors, the Claimant’s solicitors.

The claim arose from a road traffic collision, which occurred in August 2014.

At the opening of the trial in July 2015, the trial Judge (Judge Lingard sitting as a Deputy District Judge) expressed concerns regarding a claim for physiotherapy charges being pursued by the Claimant. No such treatment had been undertaken and so the claim was for prospective treatment. However, during the trial, the Claimant confirmed that he was not suffering from symptoms and had no wish to pursue such a claim. Flint Bishop was represented at the trial by Mr Andrew Sugarman of Parklane Plowden Chambers.

At the end of the trial, as well as dismissing the Claimant’s claim in its entirety and making an order for costs against him, Judge Lingard (who had previously sat as a District Judge for over 20 years) also made an order for the Claimant’s Solicitors to show cause as to why they should not pay the wasted costs of the claim for physiotherapy charges. A wasted costs order is an extremely serious sanction against a solicitor or firm of solicitors directly for instances including improper, unreasonable or negligent conduct during court proceedings.

The case was listed for an oral hearing in November 2015, where the “show cause” issue was considered. Flint Bishop retained and was represented at this hearing by Mr Alex Poole of Deans Court Chambers.

The judgment given by Judge Lingard at the hearing on 26 November 2015, contained criticism of Amanda Cunliffe Solicitors’ practices and conduct and raised specific concerns in relation to:

  • The possible internal processes of the Claimant’s solicitors and its relationship with the medical agency it utilised;
  • The possible actions of employees acting without the authority of their client;
  • The signing of Statements of Truth without having the authority of the client to do so;
  • The signing of a “false” statement of truth.

Of particular interest were Judge Lingard’s conclusions in ordering wasted costs on the indemnity basis:

“This is a case where whatever costs were wasted must be paid. It is also a case where I express grave reservations of the practice of a practice of solicitors in possibly putting too much pressure on employees or alternatively not supervising employees properly and in this case a solicitor ignoring the grave importance of the consequences of a statement of truth signed by a solicitor when clearly there was no authority to do it and in any event what was being signed was manifestly incorrect.”

Judge Lingard was also damning in his assessment of the unfortunately all too common practice of claimant personal injury solicitors instructing medical agencies in which they have an interest, stating:

“If solicitors dabble in running medical agencies as well, they should be completely transparent, not use it as a way of increasing costs… it is a very sad reflection of the state of affairs of litigation.”

A link to the official Judgment can be found by clicking this link.

Qamer Ghafoor, Managing Partner of Commercial Services and Head of Litigation, who leads the Defendant Insurance Personal Injury Department at the firm, oversaw this case and comments:

This case acts as a useful reminder of the need for the highest standard of conduct from the legal profession, to ensure compliance with professional obligations, to have robust and effective case management processes in place, which are adhered to and enforced, and the need for transparency where legal service providers utilise linked companies for support services.

This is something we have been instilling with our insurance providers for some time. We have a Counter Fraud department led by some of the most experienced solicitors in the region, and this coupled with our current Defendant Insurance Personal Injury department, demonstrates our ability to get the right outcome for our clients.

Our Litigation team and our clients do not shy away from addressing uncomfortable issues and litigating in a robust manner where considered appropriate to do so. The issues arising from this case are currently the subject of a wider strategic examination by our Defendant Insurance team and the Counter Fraud team.”

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