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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

21 MAY 2013

Phillips & Co (A Firm) v Bath Housing Co-Operative Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 1591; [2013] BPIR 102

(Court of Appeal, Longmore, Lloyd and McFarlane LJJ, 11 December 2012)

A form of solicitors carried out work for a client in 2003. It indicated the amount of the bill, but the client protested in a letter dated 20 September 2004. On 8 September 2010, the solicitors issued proceedings to recover the fees. The client argued that the proceedings were statute-barred, being more than 6 years since the cause of action accrued. The solicitors argued that the letter amounted to an acknowledgement, thereby extending time under s 29(5) of the Limitation Act 1980. The district judge found for the client, but the decision was reversed on appeal. The client's further appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. The claim, being on a solicitor's bill that was not assessed or agreed, was a claim in debt for a unquantified amount, not a claim in damages, and this fell within the ambit of s 29(5) of the Limitation Act 1980; the bankruptcy cases a regards enforcement of solicitors' bills could be distinguished. The letter could only be seen as indicating that the client recognised that a sum was due, albeit that its quantum was disputed. That was sufficient to amount to acknowledgment to start the 6 years running again.

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