A firm of solicitors whose claim for fees against the State was reduced has withdrawn its High Court appeal of the decision.
PV Boland and Co, of Newbridge, County Kildare, submitted a bill for €2.14 million after winning a case against the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, but the Taxing Master rejected their claim, describing it as revolting in the extreme. He reduced the combined barrister’s and solicitor’s fees to less than one fifth of the amount claimed.
I have never encountered such grossly excessive fees, said Mr Moran, the Taxing Master. I can hardly find the words strong enough to describe my disgust and bewilderment at the level of these costs being claimed.
PV Boland’s share of these fees was €1,050,000, but the taxing Master reduced this to €106,000, a reduction of 90%.
A claim of €10,000 for postage, photocopying, and sundries was cut to €1,000.
PV Boland issued a statement in which it said that it had withdrawn its objection due to the distracting publicity generated by the case.
“Patrick V Boland and Son took this decision reluctantly. It acted in good faith throughout this process, and submitted its bill of costs through normal channels to an established taxing process,” the statement said.
“Due to the level of commentary which prevailed from the preliminary findings, we felt the interests of our clients were best served by focusing on our work rather than on a distracting appeal process.”
“The firm does not agree with the findings of the Taxing Master, yet believed that the level of public commentary surrounding the publication of his preliminary findings was sufficient to be distracting to our responsibilities as a small local firm of serving our clients to the best of our ability.”
So there you have it. In this difficult financial climate, a firm which did work to the value of a million euros settled for a tenth of the figure it believes it’s owed. And even though it spent ten thousand euros on photocopying, it settled for one thousand.
It tolerated what must surely amount to a gross insult by the Taxing Master who said that the costs were devoid of all reality, and bore no relationship to the issues involved or the nature or extent of the work undertaken.
This is tantamount to calling them liars. A bill devoid of reality is a false bill, and therefore the Taxing Master has levelled a very grave charge against PV Boland — a charge that goes to the very heart of their professional reputation.
I simply cannot understand how any firm that values its good name could walk away from a case in which its integrity and honesty was questioned so publicly by a very senior court official.
Quite apart from the loss of a million euros — a sum that no firm could possibly do without — the damage to its reputation must be even more costly.
Therefore, distraction or not, I can’t see how withdrawing from this appeal was an option, given the reputational damage caused to this company. If they don’t defend themselves against the Taxing Master’s comments, they’ll end up with no credibility. It will almost look as if they’re agreeing with the Taxing Master’s accusation that their fees have no basis in reality.
A claim for fees which has no basis in reality is a fraudulent claim, and surely PV Boland cannot allow themselves to stand accused of fraud. That would leave them open to prosecution by the Gardai for inventing costs which they did not incur and seeking to defraud the tax-payer of a million euros. Such a thing would be unthinkable. They must act to protect their good name.