The Leeds law firm that has come to prominence by challenging deductions personal injury lawyers have made from clients’ damages has failed in its latest attempt to gain access to the parts of the file over which the solicitor has proprietary rights.
Late last year, Master Leonard rejected JG Solicitors’ application in another case, finding in Green v SGI Legal that the claimant was not entitled as of right to receive it.
He said the latest case, Riaz v Ashwood Solicitors Ltd  EWHC B5 (Costs), should be read as if the arguments he considered in Green had been put to him and rejected for the same reasons.
JG instead put forward two new lines of argument: that it would be appropriate for the court, in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction over solicitors, to make an order for the delivery of the documents; and that the defendant owed fiduciary duties to the claimant, which should be taken into account when considering whether to exercise that inherent jurisdiction.
Saying the main authority was the Court of Appeal’s 2014 ruling in Assaubayev v Michael Wilson and Partners Ltd, Master Leonard said the court’s inherent jurisdiction existed “to address cases where the conduct of the solicitor is not what it should be.
“The examples referred to in Assaubayev seem to me to make it quite clear that it is a summary jurisdiction, to be exercised only in clear-cut cases.”
Dismissing the application, Master Leonard said there was no evidence, “certainly not of the clear-cut kind that would be needed”, of any conduct on the part of a solicitor that might make it appropriate for the court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction.
JG had also failed to identify either a fiduciary duty which obliged a solicitor to supply to a client copies of documents which did not belong to the client, or a breach of any other fiduciary duty.
“Third, it does not seem to me that it would be appropriate to exercise the inherent jurisdiction of the court to order, in effect, pre-action disclosure on the basis that the claimant suspects overcharging by the defendant.”
Master Leonard concluded: “It is important to put this application into context. One must bear in mind the criteria for pre-action disclosure set out by CPR 31.16, which this case does not meet.
“One must also bear in mind the stated purpose of the application, which is to allow the claimant to take advice on the exercise of his statutory right to apply for assessment of the defendant’s bills.
“Those rights are subject to time limits. Given that, on the evidence, the claimant received bills and paid them about three years before he instructed his present solicitors to explore the possibility that he had been overcharged, it seems likely that those time limits expired some years ago.”