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Spiller costs dispute settled

The long running case of Joseph v Spiller has finally concluded. It went to the Supreme Court prior to the trial and led to the liberalisation of the defence of honest comment. At trial Tugendhat J rejected the defences of honest comment and justification but only awarded 1p because the Claimants had faked a special damages claim. He ordered the Claimants to pay 75% of the Defendant’s costs. Since the case was funded by Equity they were responsible for paying them.

We acted for the Defendant on a conditional fee basis. The assessment of the costs has taken over a year because Equity argued that there was no “win” under the CFA because judgment was entered for the Claimants with 1p damages. If there was no win under the CFA, there were no costs to pay. The definition of win in the CFA was that “the claim was determined in your favour”. We argued that nominal damages amounted to a defeat for a claimant and a victory for a defendant and that is why the Judge ordered the Claimants to pay 75% of the costs.

It is common for paying parties in CFA cases to argue that there has been some failing in the CFA in consequence of which no costs should be payable. It is often used as a negotiating tactic.

We made clear that it would not affect our stance on the settlement of costs. The assessment was due to take place before Master Simons on 28 to 30 January. However, a satisfactory settlement was reached on 22 January.

The court papers in relation to the argument can be found here.