Adams v London Improved Motor Coach Builders Ltd: CA 1921

The plaintiff successfully sued his employers for wrongful dismissal. The defendant argued it should not pay costs since it was the plaintiff’s union who had retained the solicitors in the case, and it was the union to which the solicitors looked for payment of their costs.
Held: The argument was rejected. Bankes LJ said: ‘When once it is established that the solicitors were acting for the plaintiff with his knowledge and assent, it seems to me that he became liable to the solicitors for costs, and that liability would not be excluded merely because the union also undertook to pay the costs. It is necessary to go a step further and prove that there was a bargain, either between the union and the solicitors, or between the plaintiff and the solicitors, that under no circumstances was the plaintiff to be liable for costs.’
Atkin LJ said: ‘I think that it is highly probably, though the matter has not been discussed, that the solicitors have a personal right against the trade union to receive a proper remuneration for their services. It has not been discussed, and we do not know the precise terms of the relation between the trade union and the solicitors, but I assume there exists such an obligation. Nevertheless there is nothing inconsistent in that obligation co-existing with an obligation on the part of the plaintiff to remunerate the solicitors. Naturally, as a matter of business, the solicitors would, I have no doubt, apply in the first instance to the trade union, as being the persons ultimately liable to pay the costs as between all arties – that is to say, the persons who would have to indemnify the plaintiff against the costs. But that does not exclude the liability of the member, and it seems to me not in the least to affect the position that the client may be liable, although there may be a third person to indemnify the client.’


Bankes LJ, Atkin LJ


[1921] 1 KB 495


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBee v Jenson ComC 21-Dec-2006
The defendant objected to paying the plaintiff the costs of a replacement hire car after the accident for which he was liable. He said that the plaintiff was in any event insured to recover that cost, and the insurance company were subrogated to the . .
CitedMeretz Investments Nv and Another v ACP Ltd and others ChD 14-Nov-2007
The parties disputed the success of a sale by a mortgagee in possession of various properties. The parties disputed the apportionment of costs.
Held: The appeal failed. Where there is no express agreement concerning the division of costs, a . .
CitedRadford and Another v Frade and Others QBD 8-Jul-2016
The court was asked as to the terms on which solicitors and Counsel were retained to act for the defendants. The appeals did not raise any issues concerning costs practice, and were by way of review of the Costs Judge’s rulings, and not by way of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions, Costs

Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.247997