Dog bite incident could land County Durham pet owner with £68,000 legal fee (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Dog bite incident could land County Durham pet owner with £68,000 legal fee
A DOG owner whose beloved pet bit a postman believes he is a victim of the no-win-no-fee compensation culture after discovering he could face legal fees in excess of £68,000.
Paul Race, of Fishburn, near Sedgefield in County Durham, has always denied his dog Rocky attacked postman Robert Townsend while he was making deliveries in April 2008.
He claimed his pointer setter cross had merely nipped the postman, after he hit the dog with his satchel, an allegation fiercely contested by Mr Townsend and dismissed by a county court judge.
In March 2011, Simpson Millar Solicitors, the firm representing Mr Townsend, offered Mr Race the chance to settle for compensation of £2,000 and costs of £4,061 – a figure they say was far less than the actual costs incurred.
However, disputes over whether the dog belonged to Mr Race or his ex-partner and his differing account as to what took place when the postman was bitten, resulted in the case going before Middlesbrough County Court in January this year.
The judge ruled in Mr Townsend’s favour and he was awarded £1,500 compensation, which Mr Race paid.
But when he was presented with a bill of costs totalling £68,532.02 on January 31, the shocked 64-year-old felt he had no choice but to appeal.
The amount, which is still up for negotiation and must be approved by a judge, covers the cost of Simpson Millar solicitor fees, including the additional money awarded for winning the case, as well as the fees of barristers, medical experts, witnesses and other administrative and legal expenses incurred during the proceedings.
Simpson Millar said the firm made repeated attempts to mediate with Mr Race and urged on numerous occasions to settle for the original figure.
On Tuesday (October 15), at the Civil Appeal Court in London, Mr Race’s attempt to overrule the judgement was rejected and the property landlord now fears the fees could be even greater - and could result in his home being repossessed.
“People think because I am a landlord that I have a lot of money but that is not the case,” he said. “My houses are all mortgaged and many are in negative equity. The rent they bring in pays the mortgage.”
He said the fees were outrageous, adding: “This highlights everything that is wrong with the no-win-no-fee system.”
Nathan Horsley, solicitor-advocate at Hedleys and Co Solicitors based in Sunderland, represented Mr Race throughout the case and disputed the notion his client had prolonged the proceedings.
“Mr Race made the decision to appeal based on Simpson Millar’s fees and the fact he didn’t agree with all that was said,” he said. “We didn’t charge Mr Race to represent him at the appeal as we felt he was a victim of the no-win-no-fee compensation culture.”
Nagam Din, Partner at Simpson Millar LLP, said: "Mr Townsend was subject to a distressing dog attack and, as such, he is entitled to compensation.
"From the outset, Simpson Millar has sought a swift and reasonable settlement to the case including mediation.
"Against the explicit advice from his solicitor to accept the court's original decision, Mr Race remained determined to continue the dispute which caused additional delay and associated costs."
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