CONDITIONAL FEE AGREEMENT DID NOT CONTINUE AFTER A SOLICITOR HAD CEASED TO ACT: DEFENDANT NOT LIABLE TO PAY COSTS TO FIRST SET OF SOLICITORS
I am grateful to Matthew Hoe from Taylor Rose TTKW for sending me a copy of the decision of HHJ Wulwik in Roman -v- AXA Insurance PLC (13/12/2018). Roman v AXA Insurance  (1) The judge found that a CFA with a firm of solicitors did not continue when those solicitors ceased to act because their department was closing making it necessary for the claimant to instruct a second firm of solicitors.
The claimant was injured in an accident on the 7th May 2012. She entered into a conditional fee agreement with a firm of solicitors, Secure Law, which provided for a success fee of 100%. Secure Law issued proceedings on behalf of the claimant. However in November 2015 they wrote the claimant stating that her file would be transferred to another firm “Lime”. A notice of change of solicitors was given and the action eventually settled in the claimant’s favour.
The issue arose on detailed assessment as to whether claimant had elected to treat the conditional fee agreement with the first set of solicitors (Secure Law) as continuing after the claimant had entered into a new agreement with the second firm of solicitors (Lime). The practical significance of this was that if the original CFA continued then Secure Law were entitled to be paid for the work they had done. If the CFA did not continue then there was no obligation for payment and the defendant was not liable to pay the claimant.
THE DECISION AT FIRST INSTANCE
A Deputy Master held that the claimant had elected to treat the conditional fee agreement as continuing.
THE DEFENDANT’S SUCCESSFUL APPEAL TO THE CIRCUIT JUDGE
The defendant successfully appealed this decision. The judge considered the wording of the CFA, the rules and the relevant case law.