Plaintiff not protected from costs order

LAW REPORT 27 February 1996

Turner v Plasplugs Ltd; Court of Appeal (Sir Thomas Bingham, Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Peter Gibson and Lord Justice Schiemann); 26 January 1996

Once the steps covered by a plaintiff's legal aid certificate had been accomplished, the certificate was spent and the plaintiff was no longer a legally assisted person protected against an order for costs in respect of any further steps taken in the proceedings.

The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the plaintiff from Judge Ford's decision in the Patents County Court that the plaintiff was not a legally assisted person entitled to protection against an order of costs under section 17 of the Legal Aid Act 1988.

Section 17 provides:

The liability of a legally assisted party under an order for costs made against him with respect to any proceedings shall not exceed the amount (if any) which is a reasonable one for him to pay having regard to all the circumstances, including the financial resources of all the parties and their conduct in connection with the dispute.

The plaintiff, a registered proprietor of a United Kingdom patent, was granted legal aid to take proceedings against the defendant for breach of patent rights,

limited to obtaining further evi-

dence and thereafter counsel's opinion as to the merits and quantum, and to include settling of proceedings or defence (and counterclaim) if counsel so advise.

Counsel was unable to advise on the validity of the patent as he was not provided with details of any prior art but advised that, if the patent was valid, the plaintiff had a good arguable case. He settled a draft statement of case. Without further reference to the legal aid committee proceedings were then issued. The defendant denied infringement of the patent and challenged its validity, relying on prior art. The plaintiff subsequently discontinued the proceedings.

The defendant, who was not given notice of the issue of the legal aid certificate, sought to recover against the plaintiff the costs of preparing and settling a defence to the proceedings. The plaintiff applied for an order that his liability for costs should be limited as if section 17 applied.

Gilead Cooper (Mildred & Beaumont) for the plaintiff; Gregory Chambers (Eversheds, Nottingham) for the defendant.

Sir Thomas Bingham MR said that the appeal raised an issue of considerable practical importance on the legal effect of a legal aid certificate granted to the plaintiff and arose where a legal aid certificate was limited by reference to specific procedural steps or stages.

It was accepted that the issue of proceedings was a step which was outside the scope of the plaintiff's legal aid certificate. The plaintiff had been assessed as having a disposable income of nil and a disposable capital of nil and had not been required to make any contribution towards his legal aid expenditure. The question was whether section 17 protected the plaintiff against an order for payment of the defendant's costs.

The plaintiff did not have the benefit of a legal aid certificate to issue proceedings. The defendant incurred the relevant costs preparing and delivering a defence to proceedings which the plaintiff had no authority from the legal aid committee to issue.

His Lordship could not see how, in relation to those costs, the plaintiff was to be regarded as a legally assisted person. That was exactly what he was not. He had been such for the accomplishment of three clearly defined steps. Those steps had been accomplished. There was strictly no need to discharge the certificate. It was spent. Everything it authorised had been done.

The proposition that a legal aid certificate granted to cover certain procedural steps or stages protected the assisted party against an order for costs until the certificate was discharged was not sound. Littaur v Steggles Palmer [1986] 1 WLR 287 showed that the legal aid certificate did not have to be discharged if it was spent.

So, from the time of the issue of proceedings, the plaintiff held no relevant legal aid certificate. His solicitors were not thereafter entitled to be paid by the legal aid board until a new certificate had been issued. And the plaintiff was not entitled to the protection of section 17. Everything which the current certificate authorised to be done had been done. The appeal was dismissed.

Lord Justice Peter Gibson agreed. Lord Justice Schiemann concurred.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam