Judge blasts no win, no fee road deal

A NO WIN, no fee agreement between solicitors and the victim of an uninsured driver was described as "grotesque" in a Court of Appeal ruling yesterday.

Lord Justice Jackson said that in addition to their usual costs of running the case, the solicitors would receive a 100,000 "success fee" for a risk that did not exist.

James Pankhurst, who eventually won more than 6m in damages, was severely injured cycling along a country lane in Devon in 2003 after being hit by a car driven by Lee White.

Lawyers Stewarts Law launched proceedings against Mr White and the Motor Insurers Bureau.

After liability was established at trial, Mr Pankhurst signed a conditional fee agreement which gave his solicitors a success fee of 22.5 per cent if the action was settled pre-trial. The deal included a 10 per cent postponement fee to be paid by the client if it could not be recovered from MIB.

Lord Justice Jackson said: "In the circumstances of this case there was no risk whatsoever that the solicitors would not be paid their base costs in full. Yet the solicitors were charging a success fee on top of their base costs for running a non-existent risk.

"This makes a mockery of what is said to be the justification for the present conditional fee agreement regime."

Mr Pankhurst appealed the damages ruling over the interest awarded on the sums and costs.

The claimant had in 2006 offered to accept 3.4m from MIB but refused it after winning a trial over contributory negligence.

He was then offered the equivalent of 6.m but at trial was awarded a package equivalent to 6.1m.

Because he failed to beat MIB's second offer, he became liable for the costs of the trial over damages.

The court dismissed the appeal.