Hirachand v Hirachand Opens Up Options For Claimants Seeking Reasonable Needs
The Court of Appeal has handed down its judgment today (15 October) for Hirachand v Hirachand, which confirms that 1975 Act claimants can look to recover all or part of any success fee due under a conditional fee agreement (CFA) as part of an award of reasonable financial provision.
Experts at Irwin Mitchell say the move opens up awards for claimants, while critics could argue the judgment overrides the 2013 Jackson reforms.
Expert Opinion“In the new Hirachand judgment, the Court of Appeal has said that judges can include a contribution towards the claimant’s liability to pay a Conditional Fee Agreement (‘CFA’) success fee in a maintenance-based award calculated by reference to the financial needs of the claimant as part of the overall financial award from the deceased person’s estate pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This is the first such decision from a higher court and it will be binding on lower courts.
This is a significant decision that could have a big impact on Inheritance Act claims going forward because it endorses the approach that a success fee can be recoverable from an estate, which may lead to bigger financial awards for successful claimants, who previously may have to pay their solicitors’ success fee from their award without the benefit of an uplift from the estate.
Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal has made it clear that a contribution towards a success fee will not always be appropriate as it will depend on the facts of each case including whether a CFA was the only means by which the claimant could pursue such a claim.
Some may argue the judgment is circumventing the far-reaching Jackson reforms following Sir Rupert Jackson’s Review of Civil Litigation Costs of 2009 and others will worry that it may open the floodgates to unmeritorious claims in the future. Time will tell.” Claire-Marie Cornford - Partner