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28 August 2018

The true cost of litigation…

Posted by: Alison Rocca

In a recent Court of Appeal case appeal judges have once again shown dismay at parties bringing claims before them for nominal sums in dispute.The case of  Court v Van Dijk & Anor [2016] EWCA Civ 483 related to a dispute concerning damages in the sum of £4,000.  The resulting legal costs totalled over £300,000.As a firm we are sympathetic to clients who wish to litigate as a matter of principle however at some point commericality has to take precedence.  It can never be in your clients best interest to allow a case to become so costly when the amount in dispute is relatively so small.Firms need to make sure clients are fully aware of the consequences of litigation.  Firms also have a duty to ensure other avenues of resolution are explored so as to prevent the costs and uncertainty of a final hearing.  Alternatives such as mediation can be beneficial in reducing costs, time and ultimately the stress involved with litigation.I suppose sometimes it comes down a simple question of whether your principle is worth £300,000?

Two York neighbours who took their dispute over repair works costing £4,000 all the way to the Court of Appeal clocked up legal fees in excess of £300,000. In 2011, the Van Dijks brought an action for nuisance against Mrs Court, claiming that works she had undertaken in 2007 had blocked the drain and resulted in flooding to their property. The repairs had put them out of pocket by just over £4,000. The matter went to trial and damages of £4,227.88 plus interest were awarded to the Van Dijks in September 2013... the decision has now been reversed by the Court of Appeal...The Court considered it ‘regrettable’ that the matter had come before it owing only to the huge fees incurred: Mrs Court faced a costs bill from the Van Dijks of £229,000 and her own costs were £89,000.
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Alison Rocca

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