Following the Mitchell ruling solicitors involved in litigation now have to adhere to strict new costs rules or face the possibility of professional negligence claims. The landmark Court of Appeal judgment concerned a plea for relief from sanctions in the Andrew Mitchell libel case.

On 27th November 2013 lawyers representing the Conservative former chief whip in his libel case were told that even if they succeeded the News Group Newspapers, the defendants, would not be liable for his costs.

The previous High Court ruling judgement that punished law firm Atkins Thomson for filling a costs budget the day before the costs management conference, rather than the minimum seven days, was upheld.

Master of the rolls Lord Dyson hoped that the decision sent a ‘clear message’ to solicitors to become more efficient and routinely comply with rules, practice directions and orders. It is also a message to solicitors to not take on more work then they can feasibly handle.

Andy Ellis, managing director of costs consultant Practico, which advised the firm representing News Group Newspapers against Mitchell, said; ‘The new culture is not zero tolerance — the court was clear that it is not concerned with trivial breaches. But the wriggle room is now extremely narrow when delay will result and especially if the court is inconvenienced. It was also evident that mere inadvertence or pressure of work will not get you home when seeking relief from sanctions.’

However, solicitors have voiced concerns over the intended consequences of the court’s stance on non-compliance with Jackson rules. Rod Evans, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, said; ‘For years we have been encouraged to adopt a “cards on the table” approach to personal injury litigation and to work sensibly together to resolve the matter as soon as possible at proportionate cost. The Court of Appeal’s (almost) zero tolerance to delay will mark a return to the tactical litigation that had reduced significantly, certainly in the most serious cases. I have no doubt that parties will now be tempted to try and catch each other out.’

At Jordans Solicitors we keep our case loads to a level were we can see all clients wherever possible at our offices in Castleford, Dewsbury, Horsforth and Wakefield. We have never, or ever will, adopt the ‘pile em high’ approach to clients and their cases.

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