A ‘reasonable’ legal bill is reduced by two-thirds by the Court

Liam O’Shea, Director and Solicitor in Astle Paterson’s Dispute Resolution department discusses the recent High Court decision to reduce a ‘reasonable’ costs bill to approximately 1/3 of its amount.

Liam O’Shea explained “In May & Another v Wavell Group Plc & Another [2016], Brian May – guitarist in Queen – and his wife brought a private nuisance claim.

The matter settled at an early stage of the proceedings (prior to Wavell Group even filing a Defence to the claim) when it was agreed that Mr May and his wife would receive a payment of £25,000.00 from Wavell Group and that Wavell Group would pay Mr May’s legal costs – the amount of which was to be ordered by the Court at a later date, should an agreement between Mr May and Wavell Group not be reached beforehand.

Mr May’s legal costs would said to be £208,000.00, but Wavell refused to agree to pay that sum and ultimately the matter went before a Costs Judge.  The first Costs Judge reduced the amount Mr May was entitled to for his costs to just short of £100,000.00 – and that amount was reduced further by a second Costs Judge at a following hearing to £35,000.00.”

Liam continued “The Costs Judge explained that taking into account the new proportionality test, which the Courts now apply when looking at making decisions as to costs, whilst £100,000.00 had been ‘reasonably incurred’, when considering various factors including the nature of the dispute, the amount of the settlement and the parties’ conduct during the matter, £100,000.00 was not ‘proportionate’ and therefore he reduced the ‘reasonable’ sum of £100,000.00 to that of £35,000.00.”

Liam concluded “The case serves as a stark warning to potential litigants: Litigation can be an expensive exercise and there is no guarantee that you will recover your legal costs even should be proved right at Court.

At Astle Paterson we pride ourselves in taking a commercial approach to disputes and providing our clients with pragmatic and objective advice as to the merits and proportionality of any claims to ensure situations such as this do not arise.”

Should you need assistance or advice on a dispute, Liam O’Shea of Astle Paterson’s Dispute Resolution Team will meet with you to discuss the matter on an initial fixed fee interview.  Please contact him on 01283 743965 or by way of email to

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