Kerry Underwood

CLIENT’S LIABILITY FOR BILLS

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In Brookes (t/a Brookes & Co) v Atlantic Marine & Aviation LLP [2018] EWHC 1168 (Comm) (28 February 2018)

the Commercial Court held that a solicitor could bill her client, and the client was liable for the relevant fees, even though the solicitor had not provided any fee estimate before the work commenced, here.

The solicitor had acted for the client in a number of matters, and at the beginning of their relationship, the client had emailed the solicitor stating that, unless it was necessary to deal with the matter urgently, the client required a purchase order with a fee estimate before any work was commenced.

The footer to the client’s email stated that it did not constitute any offer, acceptance or contract and that no contract would be binding and no order placed or accepted without a signature on behalf of the client.

The solicitor replied stating that it was difficult to see how using purchase orders could work in practice and that it was difficult to give a firm estimate without more information about the claim.

The solicitor sent the client a Letter of Engagement and standard terms of business and the client gave instructions for work to be carried out and the solicitors delivered bills for that work.

The client then failed to pay the last bill and argued that a purchase order and estimate were conditions precedent to any liability for fees.

The court held that the footer on the client’s email deprived it of any contractual effect and that it needed to look at subsequent events.

The court noted that the client had not responded to the solicitor’s query about how the purchase order system could work in practice and had instructed the solicitor to do work without further mention of purchase orders.

Furthermore the solicitor’s Letter of Engagement made it clear that the solicitor’s terms and conditions of business applied.

It provided that if they were not signed and returned, then they were deemed to have been accepted.

Consequently there was no condition of precedent to the client’s liability for the bills and nor was there any implied retainer.

The solicitor’s terms governed the relationship and the solicitor was only obliged to use best endeavours to provide a costs estimate.

The appropriate way to resolve any dispute about the quantum of the outstanding bill was to send it for detailed assessment.

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Written by kerryunderwood

June 15, 2018 at 10:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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