Global Energy Horizons Corp (GEHC) an alternative energy corporation headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada has won a significant Judgment against The Winros Partnership (formerly Rosenblatt Solicitors) a City of London based law firm.
GEHC’s claims are related to the legality and enforceability of three Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) alongside several misconduct allegations against Rosenblatt. A CFA is a contingency agreement between a law firm and its client whereby the law firm assumes the costs of pursuing a litigation for a reward that could amount to 100% of its customary fee.
The case considered GEHC’s claim that all three CFAs entered into with Rosenblatt were unenforceable, and in any event wrongly terminated, and as such Rosenblatt wrongly claimed costs, despite the existence of an unenforceable ‘no-win, no-fee’ CFA. The case also considered numerous allegations of impropriety, including Rosenblatt misrepresenting to its client that monies were owed.
The Judgment, handed down on Thursday August 20, 2020, found for GEHC in all its claims.
Master James, the presiding justice, noted that Rosenblatt “left GEHC’s best interests in their rear-view mirror” and “favoured its own interests over its client’s.” The Judgment found that Rosenblatt had misrepresented the following to GEHC and/or the court:
- that one of the CFAs had come to an end, before wrongly and unclearly invoicing the claimant
for monies allegedly owed
- a win had been achieved under a later CFA resulting in additional fee requirements of 7 million
- GEHC had agreed to gift Rosenblatt in excess of 2 million, including 460,000 in irrecoverable
success fees which Rosenblatt maintained they had explained to GEHC that there was no contractual entitlement
- further, Rosenblatt failed to keep records of the alleged advice or the alleged agreement
The conduct of the matter was punctuated by poor or non-existent written communications, on which Master James remarked:
“This is one of a number of occasions upon which a very important event, involving a large sum of money, has allegedly happened but in respect of which there is no paper trail to verify it, in spite of the fact that Rosenblatt is a commercial law firm and well-versed in the importance of reducing important agreements to writing.”
GEHC was represented by a London-based team of the firm Eversheds Sutherland and Ben Williams QC of 4 New Square, London. The Eversheds Sutherland team was led by Partners David Flack and Mark Cooper, and Head of Costs Glenn Newberry. The Winros Partnership were represented by Rosenblatt Solicitors and Andrew Post QC of Hailsham Chambers, and Adam Zellick QC of Fountain Court, all of London, UK.
Glenn Newberry, Head of Costs and Litigation Funding at Eversheds Sutherland commented:
“We’re delighted the Judgment found for GEHC on all counts. This is a significant case, being one of the first to find a post 2005 CFA to be unenforceable following the abolition of the 2000 CFA Regulations in 2005, as well as tackling what became an ever-growing number of incidences of misconduct. The team faced numerous challenges during proceedings, including a lack of documentary evidence, nor correspondence nor file notes of conversations of the advice which Rosenblatt purported to have provided to GEHC in respect of the unusual and complex fee agreements.”
Brian de Clare, President of GEHC commented:
“GEHC engaged Eversheds in 2016 to investigate our rights following the unauthorized removal of funds from our Client account at Rosenblatt. That was a shocking situation for us to have been put in, especially where we had placed great trust in Rosenblatt from the very beginning. For Eversheds to have uncovered even further grave irregularities in our fundamental contractual relationship with Rosenblatt (the CFAs) made us realise the trust we placed in Rosenblatt actually exposed us to being taken advantage of by them. We are extremely grateful to the Eversheds Sutherland team and Ben Williams QC for their expertise, hard work and perseverance on this difficult to comprehend matter which unearthed a catalogue of misconduct incidents stretching back a number of years.”
The case was heard in the Senior Courts Cost Office in London. The hearing lasted 10 days in 2018, including eight days of live evidence. The defendant has sought permission to appeal.
Rosenblatt Solicitors were hired in 2009 to litigate GEHC’s case against Robert Gresham Gray in London for breach of fiduciary duty in 2006 by removing GEHC’s opportunity to participate in an innovative and patented technology/process, tested and utilized in the U.S. and around the world, for increasing oil & gas recovery, and the associated benefits derived therefrom. Eversheds Sutherland also represent Global Energy Horizons in the ongoing litigation against Gray, who was found guilty by Lord Justice Vos in 2012 for breach of fiduciary responsibility.
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