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Wigg & Co - interest on costs

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Victor Webb MAE broke new ground when he represented a litigant in the High Court before Mr Justice Nelson and assessors on 16th October 2001 in the case of Argonaut Property Development Limited against Collyer-Bristow Soliciors who were represtented by Counsel, Mr Edward Francis. The court exercised discretion to allow Victor Webb the right of audience in exceptional circumstances. The company litigant in person was unsuccessful in the Appeal but the decision raised an 'interesting' point on overpaid costs. Short report as follows:

Argonaut Property Development Ltd -v- Collyer-Bristow [2001] SCCO Review No.9 of 2001, QB (Nelson J).

Interest on overpaid costs

Held: When a costs judge ordered the repayment to the client of costs which, in the light of the detailed assessment result, turned out to have been overpaid, he had no power in the ordinary case to order repayment with interest. None of the obvious sources of jurisdiction to make such an order applied - s 35A of the Supreme Court Act 1981, s 66(a) of the Solicior's Act 1974, the general equitable jurisdiction of the court or either the old or new Solictors Accounts Rules.

Comment: The result of this case is obviously unjust since it puts Solicitors in the unique position of being given interest free loans by their clients where they overcharge them. If legislation is required to reverse the decision then such a provision should be included in the next relevant statute, but the editor of Butterworths on Costs questioned whether the result might not be different in the Court of Appeal.

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