Cook v Gillard (1852) 1 E & B 26

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Cook v Gillard (1852) 1 E & B 26

The Facts

Appeal by client against a judgment for the plaintiff, a solicitor who sued for outstanding fees. The client alleged that the first and last parts of the bill were insufficient as they did not show in which Court the business was transacted, making the whole bill invalid under statute.

The Decision

The Court discussed the authorities that stated it was necessary for a bill to state in which Court the business was conducted because the Court in which business was transacted had jurisdiction for the taxation of charges for that business, fees were different in different courts, and also to allow the client the opportunity to ascertain whether the business was done and whether the charges were reasonable. However, the solicitor relied on Keene v Ward, a more recent case where it was held it was not necessary for a bill to state in which Court business was transacted as the scale of costs was now the same in all superior courts.

Campbell CJ, who delivered the judgment of the Court, noted that the earlier cases had proceeded according to the assumption (contrary to fact) that clients know nothing about the litigation that has been engaged on their behalf. Campbell CJ held that the judgment of Cozens v Graham (16 Jurist, 952) gives effect to the principle that a client cannot object to a bill on the basis that a lack of information contained in it if it appears that he is already in possession of such information. Further, while the Act gives clients a right to reasonably request more information, a bill intended and providing all requisite information should be considered compliant unless a client shows that information they really wanted had been withheld.

The client’s complaint was dismissed and verdict entered for the solicitor.

Conclusion

A former client cannot claim not to know things and then complain about the adequacy of the bill if it appears they already have the information required to obtain advice about taxation. The client bears the onus of proof of showing they do not have sufficient information.

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