Kao Lee & Yip (A Firm) v Carey & Lui (A Firm)

CourtHigh Court (Hong Kong)
Judgment Date24 November 1998
Judgement NumberHCMP882/1996
Subject MatterMiscellaneous Proceedings
HCMP000882/1996 XCHRX KAO LEE & YIP (a firm) v. CAREY & LUI (a firm)

HCMP000882/1996

MP 882 of 1996

IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE

HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION

COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE

MISCELLANEOUS PROCEEDINGS NO. 882 OF 1996

____________

BETWEEN
IN THE MATTER of Carey & Lui, a firm of Solicitors

and

IN THE MATTER of Section 67 of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, Chapter 159

____________

BETWEEN
KAO LEE & YIP (a firm) Plaintiff
AND
CAREY & LUI (a firm) Defendant

____________

Coram: The Hon. Mr. Justice Barnett in Chambers

Date of Hearing: 17 November 1998

Date of Judgment: 24 November 1998

_______________

J U D G M E N T

_______________

1. This is a review of taxation. The question which arises is whether, following a taxation ordered under section 67 of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance (the Ordinance) in which the solicitor has been awarded the costs of taxation, the solicitor can recover the cost of preparing a fully itemised 2-column bill for the purpose of that taxation.

2. The parties are both firms of solicitors. The Defendant had been acting for the Plaintiff in a number of pieces of litigation. Between August and November 1995, the Defendant rendered 7 office bills to the Plaintiffs. These bills were for a gross sum but contained a degree of detail of the work which had been carried out. The Plaintiff then gave instructions for the files on which the Defendant was working to be transferred to another firm of solicitors. The Defendant claimed a lien on the files for payment of the costs. The Plaintiff paid the Defendant in full before issuing an originating summons on 15th March 1996 for the bills to be taxed pursuant to section 67 of the Ordinance.

3. On 6th May 1996, Master Jones ordered that the bills be taxed. It seems to be common ground that at the time he directed the Defendant to file "breakdowns" although this is not recorded in the formal order which was drawn up. It also seems to be common ground that although "breakdown" means no more than the provision of sufficient particulars of the bills so that the taxation can sensibly be conducted, it has become the practice for solicitors to prepare a full 2-column bill. It is also asserted on the part of the Defendant that, if a breakdown is not provided, a taxing master will almost certainly refuse to tax a gross sum bill.

4. The Defendant was unable to provide breakdowns because the files had by then been transferred to other solicitors. By summons dated 13th August 1996, the Plaintiff applied for an order that the Defendant serve the breakdowns on which it intended to rely within 7 days. On 10th September, Master Cannon made an order that the Defendant should serve breakdowns on which it intended to rely within 21 days. The Defendant was still unable to comply. Nonetheless, by summons dated 15th October 1996, the Plaintiff applied for an order that the Defendant's bills be struck out for failure to comply with Master Cannon's order. By summons dated 16th October 1996, the Defendant sought an order that the Plaintiff's application to tax should be struck out unless within 7 days the Plaintiff provided the Defendant with the relevant files. On 28th February 1997, Master Cannon brought some order to the proceedings. She gave directions for the Defendant to obtain the files and then ordered

"that within 21 days of receipt of the said files, the Defendant do file and serve upon the Plaintiff the breakdowns in support of the scheduled bills based on the said files."

5. In April 1997, the Defendant provided the necessary breakdowns. The taxation took place before Master Betts...

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