Warren v Hill Dickinson LLP, Court of Appeal - Queen's Bench Division, November 30, 2018, [2018] EWHC 3322 (QB)

Resolution Date:November 30, 2018
Issuing Organization:Queen's Bench Division
Actores:Warren v Hill Dickinson LLP

Case No: QB/2018/0186

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 3322 (QB)




Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 30/11/2018

Before :


sitting with Master Haworth as a costs assessor

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Between :

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Patrick Lawrence QC and Andrew R. Nicol (instructed by Russells) for the Appellant--------

Nicholas Bacon QC (instructed by Hill Dickinson LLP) for the Respondent--------

Hearing date: 30 November 2018

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  1. Frank Warren is a well-known licensed boxing promoter and manager. By a claim issued on 19 May 2016, Mr Warren sought a detailed assessment of four bills rendered by his former solicitors, Hill Dickinson LLP, totalling some £922,890.03. The bills were rendered pursuant to the purported assignment of two conditional fee agreements (``CFAs'') that Mr Warren had entered into on 27 March 2013 with his former solicitors, PSB Law LLP.

  2. By his claim, Mr Warren took four points:

    2.1 First, that the CFAs were unenforceable in that the CFAs did not reflect the true agreement between the parties.

    2.2 Secondly, that he was not liable under the CFAs because he had not been successful in the underlying litigation against the boxer, Ricky Burns, and a defamation claim against Mr Morrison.

    2.3 Thirdly, that the costs billed were unreasonable.

    2.4 Fourthly, that the CFAs had not been validly assigned to Hill Dickinson.

  3. The second and fourth issues were tried as preliminary issues by Master Leonard between 13 and 16 November 2017. The master handed down his judgment on 26 March 2018. It can be found at [2018] EWHC B6 (Costs). By his judgment, the master found that the CFAs were validly assigned to Hill Dickinson and that both sets of proceedings had been successfully concluded such that the solicitors were entitled to payment of both their base fees and success fees pursuant to the terms of the two agreements.

  4. Mr Warren now seeks to appeal against the master's judgment on the assignment point. On 15 August 2018, Sir Alistair MacDuff considered the Appellant's Notice and ordered that Mr Warren's application for permission to appeal should be listed for hearing before a High Court judge with, if successful, the appeal to follow immediately afterwards. The matter is now before me. I am sitting with Master Haworth as a costs assessor. This judgment is my own, but I am grateful to Master Haworth for his advice and assistance in this appeal


  5. By his Appellant's Notice, Mr Warren seeks to argue two grounds:

    5.1 First, that, having found that PSB Law ceased to practise on 30 September 2013, the judge was wrong to conclude that the CFAs remained capable of valid assignment.

    5.2 Secondly, that the master was wrong to treat himself as bound by Budana v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 1890, [2018] 1 W.L.R. 1965. He argues that Budana should have been distinguished such that the master should have held that the CFAs could not be validly assigned at all. Further, the CFAs could not be assigned without Mr Warren's informed consent, which, he argues, was not properly obtained.


  6. Before considering these grounds further, it is appropriate to explain the Court of Appeal's recent decision in Budana in respect of the assignment of CFAs between law firms. Ms Budana signed a CFA with Baker Rees in 2011 in respect of her intended personal injury claim against the NHS Trust. Before her case could be concluded, Baker Rees withdrew from personal injury work in view of the reforms made by the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 [``LASPO'']. Accordingly, on 25 March 2013, the law firm purported to assign its CFA with Ms Budana and a number of other clients to Neil Hudgell Limited. Subsequently, on 10 April 2013, Ms Budana signed a formal letter instructing Neil Hudgell to act for her and an assignment of the original CFA in favour of her new solicitors. Lest such assignment was ineffective, on 17 May 2013, Ms Budana signed a further CFA with Neil Hudgell that was expressed to be effective only in the event that the assignment was not.

  7. Ms Budana's claim was settled but the defendant trust argued that she was only entitled to recover her base costs under the new CFA with Neil Hudgell and that the purported assignment had been ineffective. In the alternative, the hospital argued that the assignment took effect as a novation made after 1 April 2013 with the consequence that it was caught by the LASPO reforms and there was no entitlement to recover a success fee.

  8. Budana therefore raised an issue of some importance. The Court of Appeal held that the 2011 CFA had not been terminated in March 2013 when Baker Rees gave notice that it was withdrawing from personal injury work. The CFA was, however, novated in April 2013, albeit the appeal court held that such...

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