Lloyds pair 'ruined' by court costs order

Bank battle: Property advice case fees may hit pounds 250,000
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The Independent Online

A couple who speculated on the property market and then successfully sued Lloyds Bank for giving them bad advice now face financial ruin after a judge yesterday ordered them to pay the bank more than pounds 250,000 in legal costs.

Julia Verity and Richard Spindler were awarded pounds 77,529 last September after a landmark case in which a High Court judge ruled the bank was negligent in lending them pounds 150,000 for a disastrous house renovation scheme.

But at the High Court in Leeds yesterday the bank won a counter-claim against the couple which swallowed the compensation and left them with a bill for pounds 26,000 plus costs, which their lawyer said could amount to pounds 250,000.

Lloyds' counter-claim was for money the couple owed on two mortgages and a personal loan. It emerged in court that the bank had offered the couple a pounds 100,000 settlement last April which they refused.

Gregory Mitchell, for Lloyds, said: "What more could Lloyds Bank have done to avoid litigation and reach a compromise? The plaintiffs are now in a much worse position than they would have been if they had accepted the offer. They are the authors of their own misfortune and they only have themselves to blame because they should have settled."

The couple's home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, is worthpounds 110,000 and could be used to pay off some of the costs. Judge Robert Taylor postponed a ruling on this to allow an appeal to be lodged.

Miss Verity, 55, and Mr Spindler, 36, yesterday put a brave face on their loss and claimed a moral victory in which they proved the bank had given negligent advice. Mrs Verity said: "It looks as if we'll have to leave our home and we are financially ruined. We have an enormous strange feeling of relief that it is over and we can now enjoy ourselves, even if we have to enjoy ourselves as tramps.

"We have no regrets and we have fought this for other people, not just ourselves. We were badly advised and we have proved that in court. We now only owe the bank about pounds 27,000 pounds whereas before they were claiming pounds 150,000. But it is the legal costs which have gone against us."

Mr Spindler said: "We were always fighting as a matter of principle and we believe we still are right. We have been strong and stood up to the bank and we do not regret doing that."

The couple started the action after they were given bad advice to take out a mortgage on a house in Greys Hill, Henley, which they bought as an investment for pounds 150,000 hoping to sell it a year later for a pounds 10,000 profit.

But the property market slumped and they were forced to sell the house at a pounds 20,000 loss, even though they had told the manager of Lloyds' Beaconsfield branch that they needed to make money. Mr Spindler had to sell his own home to repay interest and other debts incurred.