Sibthorpe and Morris v London Borough of Southwark: CA 25 Jan 2011

The court was asked as to the extent to which the ancient rule against champerty prevents a solicitor agreeing to indemnify his claimant client against any liability for costs which she may incur against the defendant in the litigation in which the solicitors are to act for her.
Held: The defendant’s appeal failed. The Conditional Fee Agreement (CFO) was binding. When it comes to agreements involving those who conduct litigation or provide advocacy services, the common law of champerty remains substantially as it was described and discussed in Wallersteiner (No 2) and Awwad. However here, the solicitors would remain liable if the litigation were lost for counsel’s fees, and that took the matter outside a champertous agreement, and Thai Trading could be called in support of this argument, an ‘one of the main reasons for not curtailing the scope of champerty in relation to contracts involving those who conduct litigation is that Parliament has stepped into that area. That is an equally good reason for not expanding the scope of champerty in relation to such contracts.’

Lord Neuberger MR, Lloyd, Gross LJJ
[2011] EWCA Civ 25, [2011] 2 All ER 240, [2011] NPC 11, [2011] 1 WLR 2111
Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 58
England and Wales
Appeal fromMorris and Another v London Borough of Southwark QBD 5-Feb-2010
The residential tenant claimant sought damages from her council for failure to repair her flat. The counciil now objected to being asked to pay her costs, saying that the agreement with her solicitors was champertous, being a Conditional Fee . .
CitedWallersteiner v Moir (No 2) CA 1975
The court was asked whether Moir would be entitled to legal aid to bring a derivative action on behalf of a company against its majority shareholder.
Held: A minority shareholder bringing a derivative action on behalf of a company could obtain . .
CitedCallery v Gray (No 2) CA 31-Jul-2001
A plaintiff could recover the costs of insuring himself against the risk of having to pay the other sides costs, and finding his own costs irrecoverable (after the event or ATE insurance). The earlier case had decided that such premiums may be . .
CitedPittman v Prudential Deposit Bank Ltd CA 1896
The parties had agreed to assign the judgment debt to the solicitor acting.
Held: The agreement was champertous as an assignment of an interest in litigation, and therefore was void, having been made before judgment and even though it had been . .
CitedBritish Cash and Parcel Conveyors Ltd v Lamson Store Service Co Ltd 1908
The court explained the law underlying the civil and criminal penalties for the maintenance of an action by third parties: ‘It is directed against wanton and officious intermeddling with the disputes of others in which the [maintainer] has no . .
CitedRegina (Factortame Ltd and Others) v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (No 8) CA 3-Jul-2002
A firm of accountants had agreed to provide their services as experts in a case on the basis that they would be paid by taking part of any damages awarded. The respondent claimed that such an agreement was champertous and unlawful.
Held: The . .
CitedHill v Archbold CA 1968
Denning LJ said: ‘Much maintenance is considered justifiable today which would in 1914 have been considered obnoxious. Most of the actions in our courts are supported by some association or other, or by the State itself. Comparatively a few . .
CitedTrendtex Trading Corporation v Credit Suisse CA 1980
A stay was sought against a bank which had financed a contract and was supporting litigation arising out of it.
Held: Although the liability in crime and tort had been abolished, Section 14(2) of the 1967 Act preserved the law as to the cases . .
CitedGiles v Thompson CA 1992
The interest that the rule of champerty exists to protect (the individual interest) is that of the opposite party. Steyn LJ described contingency fee agreements as ‘nowadays perhaps the most important species of champerty’ and were ‘still unlawful’. . .
CitedGiles v Thompson, Devlin v Baslington (Conjoined Appeals) HL 1-Jun-1993
Car hire companies who pursued actions in motorists’ names to recover the costs of hiring a replacement vehicle after an accident, from negligent drivers, were not acting in a champertous and unlawful manner. Lord Mustill said: ‘there exists in . .
CitedSwain v The Law Society HL 1983
The Solicitors’ Practice Rules had the force of a statute, being rules made by the Council of the Law Society with parliamentary sanction for the protection of that section of the public who might be in need of legal advice, assistance or oversight. . .
CitedKenneth L Kellar Carib West Limited v Stanley A Williams PC 24-Jun-2004
(Turks and Caicos Islands) The appellant had failed in his action but argued that he should not be called upon to pay the costs of the respondent because there had been an unlawful conditional fee agreement. The bill had referred to one factor as . .
MentionedIn re Trepca Mines (No 2) CA 1962
Champerty: Lord Denning MR said: ‘The reason why the common law condemns champerty is because of the abuses to which it may give rise. The common law fears that the champertous maintainer might be tempted, for his own personal gain, to inflame the . .
CitedTrendtex Trading Corporation v Central Bank of Nigeria CA 1977
The court considered the developing international jurisdiction over commercial activities of state bodies which might enjoy state immunity, and sought to ascertain whether or not the Central Bank of Nigeria was entitled to immunity from suit.
CitedThai Trading (a Firm) v Taylor and Taylor (of Taylors Solicitors, Caversham) CA 27-Feb-1998
A solicitor had agreed with his wife to act for her in litigation on the understanding that he would only recover his profit costs if she succeeded.
Held: This agreement did not offend public policy. This type of agreement was distinguished . .
CitedHughes v Kingston Upon Hull City Council QBD 9-Nov-1998
The Solicitors Practice Rules have the effect of law, and it is still improper to agree to pursue contentious proceedings on a contingency fee arrangement without specific statutory sanction, especially in criminal proceedings. An agreement for . .
CitedGeraghty and Co v Awwad and Another CA 25-Nov-1999
The court considered an assertion that a contract for fee sharing with a solicitors firm was unenforceable being in breach of the Solicitors Practice Rules.
Held: The court refused to follow Thai Trading. There should no longer be any common . .

Cited by:
CitedSimpson v Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust CA 12-Oct-2011
The court was asked whether it was possible to assign as a chose in action a cause of action in tort for damages for personal injury, and if so under what circumstances it was possible.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. The claimant did not have . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Costs, Legal Professions

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.428246