KPMG Peat Marwick McLintock v The HLT Group: QBD 18 Mar 1994

The plaintiffs claimed for professional fees, and the defendants counter-claimed alleging negligence. The plaintiffs obtained summary judgment under Order 14 with an order for costs on the standard basis, to be taxed if not agreed. The plaintiffs had instructed solicitors in the City of London to represent them in the litigation and there was an issue as to the amount charged by those solicitors for the work which they had undertaken. The taxing officer had disregarded a survey published by the London Solicitors’ Litigation Association showing the broad average direct hourly cost for City solicitors. He had applied lower rates to taxation of the claimant’s costs on the basis that the survey rates were substantially higher than the rates which he had been in the habit of permitting on taxation.
Held: A survey of solicitors’ charge rates was admissible on taxation of costs. The taxing master should have allowed the actual rates claimed which were, in fact, marginally lower than the survey rates.
Auld J said: ‘The taxing officer’s task, as Robert Goff J put it in R v Wilkinson [1980] 1 All ER 597 at 604, [1980] 1 WLR 396 at 404, is to determine ‘the broad average direct costs of work done’ by a partner and assistant solicitor ‘ in the relevant area at the relevant time’ . . In my view, Master Ellis was wrong to regard as unreasonable, ‘the broad average direct costs’ of City of London solicitors for such a case. His approach was contrary to authority . . If, as I find, it was reasonable for the plaintiffs to have instructed Travers Smith Braithwaite in the litigation, then the firm’s costs on taxation should be taxed by reference to the broad average direct costs for such a firm in that area. The fact that the plaintiffs could have obtained the same services at a much lower price than that average elsewhere is irrelevant (cf R v Dudley Magistrates’ Court, ex p Power City Stores Ltd) . . The taxing officer, when drawing on his own experience, must thus have regard to the general levels of costs actually incurred in the relevant area at the relevant time, not merely those which he has customarily allowed in similar cases. The latter, whilst a useful guide to consistency in the short term, will not reflect the actual general levels of costs unless constantly measured against the reality of what was happening outside the taxing officer’s room during the relevant period . . The process of taxation must reflect, not set, the reasonableness of costs incurred in litigation.’


Auld J


Independent 18-Mar-1994, [1995] 2 All ER 180


CitedSmith v Buller 1875
The plaintiff in a patent case had failed, and now objected to the amount of costs claimed by the defendant.
Held: Sir R Malins V-C said: ‘It is of great importance to litigants who are unsuccessful that they should not be oppressed by having . .
ApprovedIn Re a Company (No 004081 of 1989) 1995
Lindsay J considered the calculation of costs of solicitors: ‘if . . the proper guide is that of the average solicitor employed by the average firm in the area concerned, then the Central London Law Societies’ survey, whilst not necessarily a . .

Cited by:

CitedThe Law Society of England and Wales, Regina (on The Application of) v The Lord Chancellor Admn 15-Jun-2010
Costs restriction not made under Act
The respondent had introduced rules which restricted the levels of costs which might be awarded from central funds to a successful defendant in a criminal trial who had take private representation. The amendment was made under powers in the 1985 . .
CitedRoyal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust v Acres QBD 22-Mar-2013
The defendant challenged the use by the claimant of solicitors from Central London in her claim for personal injury. She was a radiographer, and her work involved exposure to dangerous materials, though in this case it arose from use of machinery . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Costs, Legal Professions, Evidence

Updated: 09 April 2022; Ref: scu.82833