Compliant statute bills must be a “complete bill”

Posted by Michelle Barron on 10th May, 2024 in Opinion and categorised in .

In Hensley v Morris Law [2024] EWHC 1101 (SCCO), Costs Judge Rowley considered an application under section 68 of the Solicitors Act 1974 for the delivery of a statute bill of costs following the conclusion of a personal injury claim. The central issue was whether the bill provided by the defendant solicitors, which only addressed the success fee deducted from the claimant’s damages, complied with the requirements of a statute bill. The judge found in favour of the claimant, holding that the bill did not meet the necessary criteria, as it failed to provide a complete account of the fees, charges, and disbursements incurred. The judge held that clients are entitled to a compliant bill upon request, regardless of the solicitor’s view on the merits of any potential assessment under section 70 of the Solicitors Act 1974. The defendant was accordingly ordered to provide a final statute bill, with the claimant being awarded the costs of the application.

“…it is not for the defendant to decide whether or not the claimant has a case to bring under section 70. Indeed, there is some old case law which suggests that even if the client was not able to bring section 70 proceedings through being time-barred, that was not an answer to an application for the delivery of the bill. All clients are entitled to a bill which complies with the Solicitors Act at the end of their dealings with their solicitor. If that is not provided because, as in this case the solicitor takes the view that the client will not wish to have a compliant bill but simply one that deals with the most obvious element of the charges, then the solicitor is obliged to provide a compliant bill when it is specifically requested by the client. As I say, it is not for the solicitor to decide whether the client has potential grounds to bring a claim for an assessment of that bill or bills.”

The full judgment can be found here.