Row between medical negligence solicitors returns to court

Row between medical negligence solicitors returns to court

A dispute arising out of the departure of well-known solicitors from a prominent law firm in 2018 has returned before the High Court.

Augustus Cullen Law and Cullen Solicitors Services Limited had brought High Court proceedings against parties including Michael Boylan, Gillian O’Connor and their firm Michael Boylan Litigation Law Firm for alleged breach of contract.

Mr Boylan had been an equity partner at Augustus Cullen and his wife Ms O’Connor had been a partner with the plaintiffs, prior to their resignation from ACL in June 2018.

The couple are well-known solicitors in the area of medical negligence litigation.

The defendants had denied the claims. The dispute was resolved after the parties entered into a settlement agreement.

However the dispute has returned before the courts as lawyers for ACL claimed that the defendants have breached aspects of that agreement.

On Thursday, Rossa Fanning SC for Augustus Cullen Law told the High Court that as part of the settlement agreement, it was agreed that the defendants would pay legal fees to ACL.

The fees were in respect of work done on over 160 cases which were transferred from ACL to Michael Boylan Litigation Law.

Counsel said his side took a pragmatic view that the fees arising out of those cases should be paid after the cases were concluded. The fees due to ACL would be estimated by sides’ costs accountants.

Counsel said that in the event of a dispute between the sides the fees would be assessed by an agreed independent third party cost accountant.

Mr Fanning said that a dispute arose over an assessment by the third-party costs accountant of the legal fees due in one of the cases that was transferred to Michael Boylan Litigation Law.

Counsel said as a result of the dispute his client has “not received a single cent”, despite the fact that it is owed more than €1 million in legal fees by the defendants.

However, after 18 months, counsel claimed that the defendants are “obstructing” what was an agreed process contained in the settlement agreement.

As a result ACL has brought a motion to re-enter the dispute and seeks various orders including one to compel the defendants to specifically perform the 2018 settlement agreement.

The defendants, represented by Andrew Fitzpatrick SC, reject the claims.

In a sworn statement to the court, Mr Boylan said that he had made considerable efforts to reach an agreement with his former firm in regards to the outstanding issues.

In relation to the assessment of legal fees for professional work done by ACL, Mr Boylan said he had “grave concerns” about how the third-party costs accountant had arrived at his determination.

No reasons had given by the costs accountant why the figure of €37,500 was a reasonable professional fee to be paid to ACL, Mr Boylan added.

Each client is entitled to be shown a bill of costs in relation to legal fees, he said.

He said would not be in a position to comply with such obligations as he was not in possession of information from either ACL or the third-party cost accountants to explain the sums due to his former firm under the third party accountant’s determination.

This lack of reasons and other concerns were why he could not agree to the third party cost accountant determining the fees due in the remaining 160 plus cases that had transferred from ACL to his current firm.

The hearing before Mr Justice Tony O’Connor continues.

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