Smith v Debenhams Ottaway

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Adjourned preliminary hearing

In Kirkegaard v Smith, there was an adjourned preliminary hearing on May 22 2019 – I was ordered to pay Emil Kirkegaard £6,778 in legal costs (I disputed this and so did not pay him).

Unless order

Kirkegaard filed an unless order for not paying him since I contested the debt which led me to pay an additional £5,675.60 in costs to prepare for a hearing about the unpaid costs order.

My complaint to the Legal Ombudsman

I later complained to the Legal Ombudsman to be reimbursed £6,778.00 (and refunded costs spent on the unfair unless order filed against me); the adjournment was not my fault at all, but the consequence of a careless mistake by the solicitor firm I hired (Debenhams Ottaway). My complaint emphasised an unreasonable service by the firm and distress the order caused me, as well as poor handling of the complaint and their refusal to pay back my legal costs. On September 30 2021, the ombudsman agreed with my complaint in a letter they sent by email:

Based on my complaint I was reimbursed £12,653.60 and given compensation (£750.00).

Recovering £13,403.60 in legal costs

Aside from being reimbursed £6,778.00 + £200.00 VAT (= £6,978.00) and refunded legal costs I spent on the unless order (£5,474 + £201.60), I was awarded £750.00 compensation. On October 19 2021, I accepted the Legal Ombudsman’s reasonable decision* and was paid the amount (£13,403.60) by Debenhams Ottaway. Kirkegaard’s unless order in the end was irrelevant since he lost the preliminary judgment and £6,778 was offset against £13,500.00 (a net-sum of £6,722.00). Kirkegaard, however, never paid me. I filed an unless order against him for noncompliance; he is in contempt of court (Smith v Kirkegaard) for breaching this order, as well as the final costs certificate (£26,686.43). I am now enforcing these two orders.

*The Legal Ombudsman made my complaint and their decision public on 30 September 2021. Note: I received one of the highest payouts for the decision period (01/10/2020 to 30/09/2021), out of nearly two thousand filed complaints.

Legal Ombudsman decision data

Legal Ombudsman decision data for my complaint. A CSV file can be downloaded here (see #349 or D006522).