Costs News

11 April 2019
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Matchmaker wins appeal against decision his actions led to former employer’s costs bill

A former employee of a matchmaking business has won his appeal against a ruling that he pay the costs the company incurred in defending a separate case it was claimed that he had encouraged in breach of his contractual obligations.

Seventy Thirty was in the news last year over a case brought by a former customer, Tereza Burki, seeking damages for misrepresentation. She claimed that Seventy Thirty had falsely misrepresented that it had a substantial number of wealthy male members who matched the claimant's criteria and she had been induced to pay £12,800 to become a member.

His Honour Judge Parkes QC, sitting as a High Court judge, held in August that Ms Burki was entitled to repayment of her membership fee, plus £500 damages for distress, but was required to pay £5,000 damages in respect of what was effectively a counterclaim for a libellous review of Seventy Thirty, although it was brought as a separate claim.

Seventy Thirty then brought a claim against Emmet Colville, a former employee, arguing that he had breached his contractual obligations of confidence by assisting Ms Burki to bring her claim. It claimed as a loss the legal costs it paid defending the proceedings. At first instance, District Judge Hugman agreed.

In Colville v Seventy Thirty Ltd [2019] EWHC 880 (QB), Mr Justice Nicklin upheld Mr Colville’s appeal, ruling that the judge's factual findings were insufficient to support his conclusion on causation. DJ Hugman failed to make clear findings about what was disclosed by Mr Colville, when, and whether that was a breach of his contractual obligations, he said.

“It was impossible, without finding clear facts as to what Mr Colville had told Ms Burki, to embark on the assessment of whether that caused her to bring the claim…

“Mr Colville could have cajoled, encouraged, persuaded, even pressurised Ms Burki to bring her claim against Seventy Thirty but, if he had not disclosed any confidential information to her, that was not a breach of contract. Equally, no amount of malice or disgruntled bad faith by Mr Colville could prove a breach of contract. This shows how important the factual findings are.”

Nicklin J’s provisional view, subject to submissions, was that he should order a retrial.

S Clarke (instructed by DAS Law) represented the appellant, with K Holderness (instructed by Keystone Law) for the respondent.


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