Practice and Procedure

C v M (2003)

PUBLISHED March 5, 2003

A successful claimant who had entered into a conditional fee agreement prior to 1 April 2000, when the Access to Justice Act 1999 (Transitional Provisions) Order 1999 came into force, could not subsequently recover a success fee from the defendant, regardless of whether or not the agreement was still in force on that date.Appeal by the claimant ('C') from the costs order of District Judge Bennett dated 12 November 2001 by which he disallowed a success fee because insufficient notice had been given of the conditional fee agreement ('CFA'). C was employed by the defendant ('M') and during his employment C claimed damages from M because of depression due to work demands and the bullying conduct of M's chief executive. He employed solicitors in 1995 and entered into a CFA with them. In 1999 he instructed new solicitors and the previous CFA ended. In October 2000, three months prior to the trial, he instructed a third firm of solicitors and entered into two CFAs with them, in October 2000 and January 2001. M contended that there was no jurisdiction in any event to make a claim for a success fee on a proper construction of Access to Justice Act 1999 (Transitional Provisions) Order 1999. C contended that: (i) the CFAs should be enforced by way of construction of the 1999 Order; and (ii) it was discriminatory under Art.14 of the European Convention on Human Rights to disallow C to enforce the success fee.HELD: (1) The 1999 Order clearly provided that a successful claimant could not recover a success fee after 1 April 2000 if in those proceedings he had entered into a CFA prior to that date. (2) C had entered into a CFA in these proceedings before 1 April 2000. It did not matter whether or not it was still in force on that date: he could not recover the success fee. (3) It could not have been in contemplation that a CFA could end before 1 April 2000 and be re-entered later in order to gain an advantage. (4) There was no discrimination.Appeal dismissed.

[2003] EWHC 250 (Fam)