On 13 March 2017, Withers successfully defended a money claim
for a charity client in the County Court. The claim was for alleged
breach of contract with a supplier and valued at less than
Ł3,000. The facts were not in dispute. The issue was simply
whether the supplier was entitled to charge a fee in the
circumstances - a matter of interpretation of the contractual
At the final hearing, the judge rejected all of the
claimant's arguments. Unusually, the judge also awarded the
charity its legal costs, principally for counsel's fees which
were not part of the pro-bono arrangement. Such costs are not
usually recoverable for low value claims, save where a party has
acted unreasonably. Having anticipated a successful outcome to the
claim, we had taken a number of practical steps to put the charity
in a position to recover costs – such as writing to the
claimant ahead of the hearing setting out the issues with the claim
and warning that costs would be pursued if the claim was defended
Whilst the inherent risk in any litigation means that it is
sensible to consider settling a claim for a reasonable figure, it
can be difficult for charities to justify doing this when claims
have no or little perceived merit.
This case illustrates that, where it is not possible to settle
the matter cost effectively, it may be worth pursuing the matter to
a hearing and applying for costs if appropriate. In this instance,
we acted on a pro-bono basis as we felt very strongly about our
client's position. If you are facing a similar situation, we
would be happy to discuss the claim with you and offer guidance as
to the process and in some cases will act on a pro-bono basis.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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