Student who took legal case over taxi video faces €1.9m costs

Solicitor says he would not have battled international firms on a no foal, no fee basis

Eoin McKeogh got a temporary order preventing republishing online of a video clip.

Eoin McKeogh got a temporary order preventing republishing online of a video clip.

 

A solicitor who formerly acted for a student in proceedings over an internet video clip falsely portraying him as a taxi fare evader in Dublin is seeking €1.9m in legal costs from him and his parents, the High Court has heard.

Eamon and Fidelma McKeogh, parents of Eoin McKeogh (23), of Donadea, Co Kildare, say they were never clients of Paul Lambert, a solicitor in Merrion Legal Solicitors, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin, and could, and would never, have agreed to any arrangement which could result in being liable for costs of €1.9m when their only asset is their family home worth about €250,000.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan noted the bill served by Mr Lambert included €1.4m for a solicitor’s professional fee while the rest was for outlay and other expenses. Senior and junior counsel who acted for the student during a 16-day High Court injunction application have not submitted their fees in the matter, the judge observed.

Ronan Lupton BL, for Mr Lambert, said it was made clear in letters to Mr McKeogh and his parents, when Mr Lambert was instructed in January 2012, an hourly rate would be charged by the solicitor, additional staff and consultants might be needed, there were complex factual and evidential issues involved and expert reports may be necessary. The letters also stated it was understood detailed instructions were being received from all three McKeoghs although any proceedings may only have one name on those.

Asked by the judge were the parents put on notice of a potential costs liability of €1.9 million, counsel said the letters indicated the potential complexity of the case.

Part of the problem was Mr McKeogh and his parents had refused to engage with Mr Lambert on the costs issue and Mr McKeogh only on Friday agreed to sign a form allowing the matter go to taxation, he said.

Maura King BL, for the parents, argued the letters did not amount to a contract. The relationship between a client and solicitor is contractual and must have terms, the parents made clear from the outset they were not clients of Mr Lambert’s and disputed his claim they were jointly and severally liable for his costs until June 2013 when they changed solicitors, she said. The letters from Mr Lambert also referred to different hourly rates between €270 and €375 an hour, she said.

Some €47,000 paid by the parents and Mr McKeogh’s aunt Kay to Mr Lambert were considered as loans to him pending his recovery of costs at the end of the case, she added.

Mr Justice Gilligan has reserved judgement on Mr Lambert’s application for an order the accrued solicitor/client costs be taxed by a High Court taxing master, who decides on the final bill to be paid.

In court documents, Mr Lambert said the parents could not have thought he was taking a very complex case involving battling with international companies like Facebook, Youtube and Google, on a no foal, no fee basis as they were now alleging.

Mr McKeogh’s parents instructed him, had most dealings with him and they and his aunt were experienced, professional people working for banking, senior civil sevice, academic and EU institutions, he said.

The court also heard, arising from the litigation, complaints have been made by Mr Lambert and the McKeoghs to the Law Society.

The High Court previously ruled Mr McKeogh was grossly defamed in the internet video because he was incontrovertibly not the person in it. After the taxi driver posted the video asking if anyone could identify the person in his cab in Monkstown, Dublin, one person wrongly named Mr McKeogh, then in Japan, Mr Justice Michael Peart noted.

Mr McKeogh got a temporary order preventing republishing of the material and the court later found he was entitled to orders against YouTube, Google, Facebook and a number of websites aimed at securing the permanent removal of the video and accompanying material. A stay was granted pending appeal before the Supreme Court next month.

The interim orders preventing republishing of the clip remain in place pending the appeal while the full hearing of Mr Kehoe’s action arising from the clips is on hold until after the appeal.