Claimants chasing damages payments should be aware of strict new court deadlines which have hit former Government chief whip Andrew Mitchell MP with a potential legal bill of more than £500,000 in his “Plebgate” action against a newspaper, a Midlands lawyer has warned.
Litigation specialist Sam Pedley has warned that recent changes to the rules governing legal costs could leave claimants out of pocket even if they win their case.
Sutton Coldfield MP Mr Mitchell recently lost an interim appeal in his ongoing libel action against The Sun, which effectively means he will now have to pay his own legal fees, win or lose.
It comes after his lawyers failed to file a costs budget on time and means he can now only claim back the court fees rather than the submitted legal costs of some £506,425.
Mr Pedley, an associate solicitor at West Midlands-based mfg Solicitors, said: “It seems something of a cruel irony that a former minister within the same Government that has overseen these changes has lost out from them in the Court of Appeal.
“One of the reforms requires parties to file at court a cost budget detailing the incurred and anticipated costs. Andrew Mitchell’s legal team failed to file such budget within a set time and therefore had the costs capped at court fees only. The ruling may appear harsh, but it is a clear attempt to change the culture of legal teams meeting deadlines to ensure efficiency and compliance. Administrative errors or pressure of work will not suffice as an excuse.”