Wednesday 22 November 2017

Row over €212,000 lawyer fee for boy's court win

Tim Healy

THE High Court has been asked to rule on a dispute over a €212,000 instruction fee approved for a firm of solicitors representing a young boy who secured a €800,000 settlement over serious injuries suffered in a road accident.

The row arises from proceedings initiated in 1995 on behalf of Scott Bourbon over serious head and other injuries he suffered in a road accident in October 1993 when he was aged seven. He was hit by a car when crossing the road while playing at Rahood Park, Galway.

The case was brought against the alleged driver of the car, the late John Sonny Ward, his father, John Ward, as alleged owner, and, because the car was uninsured, the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).

The defendants claim the appropriate instruction fee claimed by Keane Solicitors, Eyre Square, Galway, in the Bourbon case, is €135,000.

They also claim part of the fee, including almost €50,000 for time spent reading medical reports and €18,800 for time spent reading school reports, are excessive.

A fee of €70,000 was sought for dealing with 1,069 letters in the action, based on €66 per letter at an average time of 20 minutes per letter. Some €14,000 was also sought for about 70 hours spent trying to discourage the injured plaintiff from suicidal thoughts, the court heard. Other items in dispute include a claim for €10,400 (based on €200 per hour for 52 hours) for perusing the pleadings in the case.

The solicitor firm also sought €14,800 for 74 hours reviewing issues relating to wardship and guardianship in the case and €22,200 for 111 hours of work in arranging appointments in the years 1999, 2005 and 2009.

In their detailed opposition to those and other claims, the solicitors allege the case was alive over a 15-year period and involved very complex issues both here and in the US, where Mr Bourbon has lived since 1995, two years after the accident occurred.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, reserved judgment on the challenge, which concluded yesterday.

He has been asked to rule whether High Court Taxing Master James Flynn erred in allowing the €212,000 to the plaintiff's solicitors (who had claimed a €242,000 instruction fee). Master Flynn allowed a total bill of costs of about €324,000, including the €212,000 instruction fee, after examining the work of the plaintiff's solicitors.

The case was settled in December 2009 for €800,000 plus costs, including all costs arising in Ireland or in the US in relation to taking Scott into wardship/guardianship there.

He and his mother moved to Florida in 1995 and a guardian was ultimately appointed to his property in Florida.

Irish Independent

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