Green & Ors v SGI Legal LLP [2017] EWHC B27 (Costs)

The judgment addressed four separate Part 8 applications for delivery up of papers, made under section 68(1) of the Solicitors Act 1974 by four former clients of the Respondent.

Master Leonard in his judgment highlighted that the Senior Courts Costs Office had, over the past year, received an increasing number of such applications, “For that reason, I propose to address the issues in some detail in the hope that doing so may help to reduce the scope of future disputes.”

Master Leonard considered it for the Claimants to show that they were entitled, as of right, “to receive copies of another person’s property, even on agreeing to pay the proper cost of supplying it”. He went on to add “If one person writes a letter to another, keeping a copy, it is not self-evident that the recipient can require another copy on demand, even on agreeing to pay for it”.

The Claimants conceded, upon authority of Leicestershire County Council v Michael Faraday & Partners [1941] 2 KB 205, that they did not have a right to copies of file notes or ledger entries on payment or otherwise. They did however seek to distinguish the case-law by arguing that they had limited their claim to copies of three categories of documents, all of which they said were created for their benefit.

Master Leonard opined “I am unable to agree. The purpose of creating documents for the client’s benefit is fulfilled when those documents are given to the client. Supplying extra copies is another matter…A client who wishes to challenge a solicitor’s charges, but who has nonetheless lost or destroyed the key documents upon which that challenge is based, will obviously be at a disadvantage. It does not follow that the solicitor has any obligation to compensate for that.”

As a result, Master Leonard dismissed the applications. This is a bold and welcome decision for the increasing number of firms subjected to opportunistic attempts at solicitor/own client assessments.


Gemma Taylor