Claimant solicitor struck off for “grossly excessive” £400 hourly rate claims against NHS Resolution
9th April, 2019
A clinical negligence solicitor from Yorkshire firm Rapid Response has been struck off, after a High Court Judge agreed that a previous decision to impose a fine of £30,000 was too lenient.
Mr Good was the former owner of Rapid Response. He had a “set policy” of charging £400 per hour, and a 100% success fee, regardless of the complexity of the case or the fee earner with conduct. For Grade D fee earners, the hourly rate of £400 represented a rate which was almost 4 times the Guideline rate.
In 2013, a complaint was made to the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority by NHS Resolution, regarding what was deemed to be grossly excessive charging behaviour. Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal proceedings commenced in 2017 and it was alleged that Mr Good caused the firm to routinely overcharge, rendering Bills of Costs which they knew to be excessive and often grossly excessive. This conduct was alleged to be dishonest. In one instance, a Bill of Costs seeking £37,298 was reduced by some 91%, to £3,330 at detailed assessment.
In an attempt to mitigate his actions, Mr Good’s representatives commented that NHS Resolution was “not a naïve litigator” and said that “whilst the Bill did not identify the grade of each named fee earner, NHSLA (now NHS Resolution) could have ascertained the grade by going on to the Roll of Solicitors.” Mr Good “believed that he was entitled to ‘test the rate’, and that the bills would be subject to the scrutiny of the courts/costs experts”. Acumension, costs specialists acting for the NHSLA, described the costs claimed as “beyond obscene”.
During the recent High Court Appeal Hearing, Lord Justice Flaux held that there were “clear and obvious errors of principle” in the SDT’s initial decision to impose only a monetary fine. LJ Flaux stated that “in the light of those clear and unequivocal findings, the only proper conclusion would have been that, in rendering the bills which he knew to be excessive or grossly excessive and artificially high, Mr Good was dishonest in the first place.” The fact that the amounts of the bills were never in fact recovered on detailed assessment and that Mr Good later reduced the rates did not mean that his conduct was not dishonest.
Mr Good has now been struck off the Roll. Since the judgment, Mr Good has reportedly expressed “utter disbelief” at the decision and has confirmed that he is considering an appeal. In a statement, he commented that he had made no financial gain from his conduct and that there had been no actual financial loss to any party, including the NHS. He states that he remains proud of the work he carried out.
In 2014 Rapid’s business was taken over by Hudgell Solicitors and Rapid no longer exists as a separate entity.
Helen Vernon, Chief Executive at NHS Resolution, stated that she welcomed the judgement. She said: “This is public money and Mr Good’s actions were an attempt on funds which should be used for patient care.”
Click here for the full judgment.
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