Kerry Underwood


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The matters dealt with in this piece are examined in great detail in my three volume, 1,300 page book Personal Injury Small Claims, Portals and Fixed Costs – price £50 and available from Underwoods Solicitors here.

Kerry Underwood offers consultancy services in relation to this and other matters and details are here.


Various Claimants v Giambrone & Law (a firm) and others (defendants) and AIG (Europe) Limited – Section 51 respondent [2019] EWHC 34 (QB)

the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court made a non-party costs order against the insurers for the defendants.

The claimants succeeded in a professional negligence action against the defendants over legal advice given in relation to the purchase of properties in Italy.

They made an application under section 51 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 for a non-party costs order against the insurers AIG (Europe) Limited.

The judge held that AIG’s funding of the defence increased the claimants’ costs and ordered AIG to pay half of their total costs.

Although success in a section 51 application requires there to be exceptional circumstances, the threshold is lower than it may seem, as in

Dymocks Franchise Systems (NSW) Pty Ltd v Todd [2004] 1 WLR 2807

the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council said:

“Although costs orders against non-parties are to be regarded as “exceptional”, exceptional in this context means no more than outside the ordinary run of cases where parties pursue or defend claims for their own benefit and at their own expense. The ultimate question in any such “exceptional” case is whether in all the circumstances it is just to make the order. It must be recognised that this is inevitably to some extent a fact-specific jurisdiction and that there will often be a number of different considerations in play, some militating in favour of an order, some against.”

(Quoted at Paragraph 11 of this judgment.)

Here the court said:

“78. In my view, where an indemnity insurer substantially relinquishes control of the conduct of the litigation to the insured (or fails to take steps to control it when there are grounds for intervening), and does so in the expectation that it will be immune from a costs liability towards the opposing party if the opposing party is successful, that expectation is open to be falsified by the court in a section 51 application, particularly if the prospects of success for the insured are assessed as poor.”


Given that actively controlling the litigation is a key factor in making a non-party potentially liable for costs, we are now close to the position that, in reality, the starting point is that an insurer will be liable for costs, either because it does control, or fails to control, the litigation.

Although this lengthy decision usefully examines in detail the relevant case law, it does not establish any new legal principle.

Written by kerryunderwood

January 22, 2019 at 6:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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