Litigant in person ordered to pay costs in case involving claim against lawyer

A litigant in person has been told that his committal application against a private client lawyer was “a farrago of nonsense” and has been ordered to pay costs. The judge, Munby J, said Desmond Fitzgerald’s allegations against Frances Hughes, a partner at Hughes Fowler Carruthers, were “scurrilous, fatuous, and should never have been made”.

Ms Hughes and her firm sought to recover costs on an indemnity basis, claiming a total of £101,995 in respect of Mr Fitzgerald’s two claims against them. The president of the Court of Protection accepted the indemnity approach but revised the amount down to £92,000.

“Litigants in person often cause mayhem in the courts,” Ms Hughes told Solicitors Journal, “but, even worse, there can be terrible consequences financially for these litigants.” She continued: “Judges are being told they must give litigants in person a chance, but it’s almost always inevitably an unhappy outcome for litigants who are not clear about a process which is complicated and that they don’t really understand.”

Mr Fitzgerald’s first applications were directed at a decision by Senior Judge Denzil Lush in May 2013 to appoint a property-and-affairs deputy for his aunt, who was deemed to lack capacity. He objected to the appointment, to the solicitors acting for his aunt, and to experts’ findings in relation to her capacity.

“The persistence with which he kept filing application notices, if not intentionally designed to disrupt and derail the litigation process, almost succeeded in having that effect,” Judge Lush observed in his judgment at the time. “What I find so depressing is that the case highlights the difficulties increasingly encountered by the judiciary at all levels when dealing with litigants in person,” he continued. “Judges should not have to micro-manage cases, coaxing, and cajoling the parties to focus on the issues that need to be resolved.”

Direct Access Barristers - myBarrister