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Industry Awaits Costs Office Ruling on £105m Success Fee

There has been general tut tutting (plus a sharp intake of breath) regarding Leigh Day & Co.'s claim for costs against Trafigura.

You may remember the case. If you do, then ignore the next bit:

Basically, Oil conglomerate Trafigura was sued by 30,000 Ivory Coast residents following the dumping of toxic waste by tanker Probo Koala (soft and cuddly name) near to the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan in August 2006. The tanker was operated by Trafigura and had tried offloading the waste in Holland but they didn't want it. Africa was a much cheaper option. The toxic waste was alleged to have caused  illness to 30,000 residents of Abidjan.

The Guardian newspaper has been at the forefront of discovering what actually happened and has had to fight super injunctions issued by Carter Ruck on behalf of Trafigura along the way. The upshot of it all is that Trafigura agreed to pay the Ivory Coast Government $200m to clean up the mess and settled Leigh Day's action for just £1000 per claimant (so £30m give or take).

That's the easy bit. Then along came Leigh Day's costs. They put a bill in for £105m plus an uplift of 100%! Shockwaves went around the corporate world - what was this thing called a conditional fee agreement?

Trafigura argues that their own legal bills came to just (!) £14m so £105m was excessive. Leigh Day (with some justification) argue that they were dealing with 30,000 clients in a far away country whereas Trafigura's lawyers were dealing with one client based in London. 

Our old (sensible) friend senior costs judge Master Hurst plus Mr Justice MacDuff are dealing with the case and are expected to rule early next year. Unfortunately, this landmark costs action has come at the same time as the Jackson review and no doubt defendants will be pointing fingers at the case and exclaiming that CFA's are expensive and don't work.

Well, Leigh Day's bill comes in at just £3500 per claimant which sounds ok to me. I doubt very much that many of the 30,000 victims would have been  in a postion to retain a lawyer on a pay as you go basis. Without condition fee agreements, I don't think justice would have even got off the ground.

I shall let you know what happens.

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