In Rodney v Stricke (No 2) [2020] NSWSC 1126  costs were ordered against a solicitor personally for administration related delays.

A solicitor was retained to assist a client in an appeal application against an owner’s corporation of a strata committee. Rule 50.3 of the UCPR provides a strict time-frame of when an Appeal must be lodged. 

In February 2020, the solicitor requested his assistant diarise a new date for the filing of the application. This was not done.

The solicitor also prepared a brief for senior counsel; however, the brief arrived almost three months later. This was due in part to the changing circumstances of the solicitor’s office and relocation due to Covid-19.  

The other party sought their costs of the delay. The solicitor in question opposed the application for costs on the basis that the delay was occasioned by an administrative oversight. The court held that this was not a sufficient reason for the delay. 

The court also noted that at the time of the delays “caused” by Covid-19, there were no relevant restrictions in place during or prior to the time that the appeal was due to be filed. 

The solicitor consented to a personal costs order in the Defendant’s favour for the costs thrown away for the delay in filing the appeal summons and the subsequent 7-week delay.

The Supreme Court Decision noted that the plaintiff should not be punished for the failure of their solicitor, the judge provided a discretionary decision to grant an extension in time to file summons as the solicitor for the plaintiff would pay the Defendant’s costs.

Takeaways from this case:

  • Always ensure that you are aware of critical dates and deadlines; unnecessary delays may result in cost orders against you. 
  • Ensure that the administrative staff are aware of the ramifications for missing deadlines and the importance of organisation of court deadlines.
  • Covid-19 is not an excuse for failing to meet court orders and court time frames. 

**Assisted by; Kody Fletcher**