Gavin Edmondson Solicitors Ltd v Haven Insurance Company Ltd: SC 18 Apr 2018

The court was asked as to use of the solicitor’s equitable lien, whereby equity provided security for the recovery by solicitors of their agreed charges for the successful conduct of litigation, out of the fruits of that litigation. It is a judge-made remedy, motivated not by any fondness for solicitors as fellow lawyers or even as officers of the court, but rather because it promotes access to justice. Specifically it enables solicitors to offer litigation services on credit to clients who, although they have a meritorious case, lack the financial resources to pay up front for its pursuit. It is called a solicitor’s lien because solicitors used to have a virtual monopoly on the pursuit of litigation in the higher courts. The solicitors had taken on personal injury claimants on a conditional fee basis. The appellant insurance company had settled the claims directly with the clients, depriving the solicitors of their costs.
Held: Appeal dismissed (though on differing grounds)
‘ the equity depends upon the solicitor having a claim for his charges against the client, that there must be something in the nature of a fund against which equity can recognise that his claim extends (which is usually a debt owed by the defendant to the solicitor’s client which owes its existence, at least in part, to the solicitor’s services to the client) and that for equity to intervene there must be something sufficiently affecting the conscience of the payer, either in the form of collusion to cheat the solicitor or notice (or, I would add knowledge) of the solicitor’s claim against, or interest in, the fund.’
Lady Hale, President, Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Briggs
[2018] UKSC 21, [2018] RTR 22, [2018] 2 Costs LR 347, [2018] PNLR 24, [2018] 3 All ER 273, [2018] 1 WLR 2052, [2018] WLR(D) 241
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, Supreme Court, SC Summary, SC Summary Video, SC 2018 0205 am video, SC 2018 0205 pm video, SC 20180202 am Video, SC 2018 02 06 pm video
England and Wales
Appeal fromGavin Edmondson Solicitors Ltd v Haven Insurance Company Ltd CA 2-Dec-2015
Appeal by Edmondson against an Order dismissing Edmondson’s claim against Haven in respect of Haven’s conduct in settling on an inclusive basis personal injury claims directly with six clients of Edmondson with whom Edmondson had concluded . .
CitedWelsh v Hole 6-Nov-1779
The plaintiff obtained judgment for pounds 20 and costs in a civil claim for assault, but then compromised the claim for a direct payment by the defendant of pounds 10. There was no collusion to defeat the solicitor’s right to payment of his bill. . .
CitedRead v Dupper 13-Jun-1795
The defendant’s solicitor paid the plaintiff direct, after notice of the plaintiff’s solicitor’s interest, and had to pay again. Lord Kenyon began:
‘The principle by which this application is to be decided was settled long ago, namely that the . .
CitedOrmerod v Tate 13-May-1801
An attorney has a lien upon a sum awarded in favour of his client, as well as if recovered by judgment: and if after notice to the defendant the latter pay it over to the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s attorney may compel a repayment of it to himself, . .
CitedEx Parte Bryant 12-Aug-1815
Person arrested on his return from proving a debt at Guildhall, discharged with costs of application.
Though an order be made on a petition in bankruptcy, directing costs to be paid to the Petitioner personally, this does not take away the . .
ApprovedKhans Solicitor (A Firm) v Chifuntwe and Another CA 8-May-2013
C instructed the claimants to bring proceedings. They compromised those proceedings, the defendant agreeing to pay C’s costs. A bill was submitted but before it was paid C withdrew his instructions from his solicitors and accepted the defendant’s . .
CitedIn re the Estate of Fuld, decd (No. 4) 1968
The solicitor sought to exercise a lien for his costs over money paid direct to his client.
Held: The solicitor’s right exists over both the amount of a judgment in favour of the client, and the amount of an order for costs in favour of the . .
CitedGould v Davis 1831
. .
CitedIn Re Moss 2-Jun-1866
Lord Romilly MR said: ‘I think it of great importance to preserve the lien of solicitors. That is the real security for solicitors engaged in business. It is also beneficial to the suitors. It would frequently happen, but for the lien which . .
CitedBarker v St Quintin, Esq 22-Jan-1844
A solicitor’s the equitable lien operates by way of security or charge.
Baron Parke said: ‘The lien which an attorney is said to have on a judgment (which is, perhaps, an incorrect expression) is merely a claim to the equitable interference of . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 18 July 2021; Ref: scu.608733