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A question which the court was asked to consider recently,in the matter of James Moore (a Bankrupt) sub nom Mawer (Trustees in Bankruptcy of James Moore) v Moore (2017) Ch D (Sir Geoffrey Vos C) 07.04.2017, was:

Does a conditional fee agreement continue to apply if the claim is amended partway through the proceedings? 

The trustee in bankruptcy commenced proceedings against the wife of the bankrupt to set aside a transaction at an undervalue under section 339 Insolvency Act 1986 (“Act”). Prior to the commencement of the proceedings and prior to 6 April 2016 the trustee had entered into a conditional fee agreement (“CFA”) with his solicitors and obtained after the event (“ATE”) insurance, the date being important because if the CFA was dated and the ATE insurance obtained prior to 6 April 2016 any success fee and ATE insurance premium remained recoverable from the defendant.

In 2017, the trustee sought to amend his claim to allege that the transaction was a transaction defrauding creditors under section 423 of the Act. 

The defendant argued that the amendment should only be allowed if the Court made it clear on the face of the order that the amended claim was outside the scope of the CFA and was not covered by ATE insurance. 

The court refused to make a determination requested by the defendant and held that while the defendant may be right in her argument that the amended claim was different from the original claim and so outside the scope of the CFA and not covered by ATE insurance, the court could not be certain of that until the proceedings had been concluded. 

Once the case is concluded, the court may then decide that the amended claim is different from the original underlying claim and so outside the scope of the CFA and the ATE insurance. 

John Vickery, Partner and expert in Restructuring & Insolvency at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The lesson to be taken from this case is that the claimant in any proceedings should consider all potential claims prior to entering into a CFA and taking out ATE insurance and where there is any uncertainty include the claim as part of the definition of “the Claim” in your CFA.”

We have considerable experience in dealing with these types of claims through our dedicated “No Win No Fee” product for creditors whereby we will present winding up petitions for clients on a CFA basis.  To find out more, please contact our insolvency experts John Vickery or Edward Judge.



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John Vickery