Costs: Richard O’Donovan v County Registrar for the County of Cork
CORK COUNTY REGISTRAR SCALE COSTS
RICHARD O’DONOVAN v COUNTY REGISTRAR FOR THE COUNTY OF CORK AND CORK CITY COUNCIL
RECORD NO: 2018/37JR 2021 IEHC 307
This matter was judicially reviewed as there was an issue in relation to the party and party basis of a taxation of costs arising out of a successful Personal Injuries action which was settled with Cork City Council on the eve of the Trial.
Previously the former County Registrar for Cork operated a scale of costs which was subsequently found by the High Court to be unlawful, as it unfairly benefitted Defendants by capping the legal costs payable on a party and party basis, irrespective of the nature and extent of the work done.
In November 2012, the Plaintiff fell from his bicycle when he hit a pothole on a public roadway. The Council refused to consent to an assessment in the Injuries Board. The Solicitors who acted on behalf of the Council issued an extensive Notice for Particulars and filed a full Defence which required the Applicant’s Solicitor to seek Discovery of the Council’s records detailing any remedial works undertaken by it at the accident locus. The claim settled for the sum of €9,500 plus costs to be taxed in default of agreement.
The Bill of Costs issued by the Plaintiff’s Solicitors contained 145 items inclusive of Counsel’s fees, expert witnesses, expenses, outlays, instruction fee and Value Added Tax totalling the sum of €37,756. The Council’s Solicitors tendered the sum of €10,201 in relation to the costs.
In November 2006 the County Registrar issued a litigation circular advising parties as to the amounts likely to be allowed on taxation of costs. It was to act as an indication of what fees would be allowed in a “normal” type action and it specified that these figures would not apply to any complex cases or to cases in the equity jurisdiction. The circular was updated in January 2015.
When this matter came before the County Registrar, she applied the scale during a taxation hearing which took approximately 15 minutes wherein she allowed the sum of €9,712 being €488 less than the sum tendered. Therefore, the Applicant was rendered liable to pay the costs of the taxation and at least in principle was liable to his own Solicitor for the shortfall in the costs recovered.
This practice was subsequently found to be unlawful and ultra vires the County Registrar’s powers. It was noted that there was an established process for the measurement of legal costs, which is conducted by reference to work done and not by reference to a percentage of the award.
In May 2021 the matter came on for mention before the High Court and certain declaratory reliefs were granted as part of the final Order, following which it is believed that there are now grounds to review previous taxation of costs/legal costs adjudications before the Cork County Registrar with a view to seeking an uplift in fees for the professions concerned including Solicitors and Barristers. Final Orders are due to be made on the 19th May 2021