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.

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

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried