On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Lawyers Can’t Recover Their Fees From Airlines in Flight Compensation Claims, Can They
For many years lawyers acting for clients in flight compensation claims have often been thwarted when pursuing their legal costs from airlines.
Why Have Lawyers Had Such Difficulty Retrieving Their Legal Costs?
The issue was highlighted in the Supreme Court case of Bott and Co v Ryanair. In the case Bott and Co submitted claims for its costs in relation to 100,000 flight compensation claims. Lawyers have found retrieving their accrued and incurred costs difficult because many airlines have seemingly approached their customers directly offering to administer their respective cases. Whilst this sounds appealing as it provides a chance for the:
- customer and airline to repair their commercial relationship;
- airline to demonstrate outstanding customer service; and
- overriding objective to be furthered by mitigating the risk of court proceedings.
However, despite all the positivity from a client perspective a crucial issue emerged. Lawyers were acting on behalf of such customers often to later find that airlines were bypassing the legal process and leaving lawyers out of pocket. The solicitors submitted that it was entitled to be paid the accrued costs and issued High Court proceedings to retrieve costs and disbursements. In the High Court Bott & Co’s case was that it was providing a practical legal service to the public which is entrepreneurial with tech and innovation at its heart. It argued that its unique selling proposition was being employed against it to cut off its lifeblood in terms of its costs.
Following two defeats in the High Court and Court of Appeal respectively Bott & Co still claimed that it was entitled to the accrued monies in these respective airline compensation cases so it issued Supreme Court proceedings. Bott and Co Solicitors attempted to persuade the esteemed judges that they should find in their favour in the claim for the apparently accrued monies because on the evidence there was an apparent correlative and causative relationship between the work carried out by the firm and the monies to be recouped. If this was a horserace Bott and Co effectively scraped home by a nose in a photo finish and a steward’s inquiry. The Supreme Court narrowly found in Bott and Co’s favour by a margin of 3-2. There had been an apparent historic perception by airlines that the work of law firms in similar cases was a nuisance. However, in the Supreme Court the highly respected judge Lady Arden disagreed and commented that firms like Bott & Co were providing a useful service to members of the public.
During the legal proceedings Bott and Co instructed Rosenblatt Solicitors to act on its behalf. When Anthony Field from Rosenblatt was asked for his interpretation of what the case meant he considered the judgment to be of importance in two respects:
- Firstly, it shielded the public; and
- Secondly, it was a progressive step forward in allowing members of the public a gateway to legal services delivered to a good standard and which are sufficiently financed.
For the wider profession this judgment is significant because it confirms the position dating back two-centuries that law firms can potentially claim a lien under the laws of equity. Blackstone Chambers commented that the costs were awarded to the firm because the work carried out increased the chances of clients in these claims successfully claiming compensation in this area. More lawyers will be able to reclaim their fees from the respective airlines on this basis.
This decision may have serious implications and lawyers should be paying attention to it.
#Bird&Bird #FoxWilliamLLP #BlakeMorganLLP #DeloitteLegal #DHMStallardLLP #HFW #HillDickinsonLLP #MischcondeReyaLLP #TrevlawLLP
THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 Bott & Co Solicitors Ltd (Appellant) v Ryanair DAC (Respondent) 16 March 2022 - Bott & Co Solicitors Ltd (Appellant) v Ryanair DAC (Respondent) (supremecourt.uk)
 Bott & Co: Ryanair ruling allows law to catch up – Law Society Gazette - 17 March 2022 - Bott & Co: Ryanair ruling allows law to ‘catch up’ | News | Law Gazette
 Gavin Edmondson Solicitors Ltd v Haven Insurance Co Ltd  UKSC 21;  1WLR 2052 - Gavin Edmondson Solicitors Limited (Respondent/Cross-Appellant) v Haven Insurance Company Limited (Appellant/Cross-Respondent) (supremecourt.uk)
 Holland, David – Solicitors Lien after Haven – Association of Costs Lawyers - Holland_David_QC_Solicitors'_Liens_Talk.20.11.18.pdf (associationofcostslawyers.co.uk)
 Hyde, John – Supreme Court backs solicitors over right to recover costs – Law Society Gazette - 16 March 2022 - Supreme Court backs solicitors over right to recover costs | News | Law Gazette
 Hyde, John – Claimant firm wins Supreme Court battle over third party capture – Law Society Gazette – 18 April 2018 - Claimant firm wins Supreme Court battle over third party capture | News | Law Gazette
 Re Moss (1866) LR 2 Eq 345
 Barker v St Quentin (1844) 12 M & W 441
 Mason v Mason and Cottrell  P199 at 214
 Ex p Bryant (1815) 1 Madd 49
 Re Fuld dec’d (No 4)  p 727
 Khans Solicitors v Chifuntwe  1 WLR 1185