Monica Leech loses appeal over ruling allowing €165,000 solicitor's instruction fee

Monica Leech Loses Appeal Over Ruling Allowing €165,000 Solicitor's Instruction Fee
Former public relations consultant Monica Leech has lost her appeal over rulings allowing fees and certain other costs to a law firm which represented her in a defamation case.
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Former public relations consultant Monica Leech has lost her appeal over rulings allowing a €165,000 instruction fee and certain other costs to a law firm which represented her in a defamation case.

A High Court jury had awarded Ms Leech €1.87 million damages, plus costs, in 2009 over articles published in the Evening Herald in 2004.

In 2015, the Supreme Court reduced the award on appeal to €1.25 million, plus costs.

Ms Leech had instructed solicitors McCann Fitzgerald (MCF) in late 2004 to represent her in defamation proceedings over the Evening Herald articles and also in defamation actions against other titles in the Independent Newspapers Group.

After the MCF retainer was terminated in August 2011, she later instructed a Co Waterford based firm, Kenny Stephenson Chapman.

Exact costs

Issues concerning the exact costs to be paid to Ms Leech by Independent Newspapers arising from the €1.25 million award were parked, pending the outcome of the taxation of the solicitor/client costs.


Ms Leech represented herself in proceedings before a High Court Taxing Master concerning the fees and costs claimed by MCF under its seven-year retainer.

There was no dispute the firm had done the work claimed for.

Represented by lawyers, she later sought a High Court review of the Taxing Master’s rulings. MCF opposed her proceedings

In December 2019, the High Court’s Mr Justice Anthony Barr held there was no basis to set aside the Taxing Master's decisions.

She appealed and, on Friday, the three judge Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal.

Alleged quantification error

Giving the COA judgment, Ms Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh said the key question in the appeal was whether the High Court correctly approached an issue about an alleged quantification error by the Taxing Master in one of his rulings.

The High Court had said Ms Leech had sought to raise new grounds of objection in the High Court review concerning how the Taxing Master had quantified the instructions fee when the law clearly stated "that cannot be done".

It found Ms Leech, who said she did not notice the error until after the taxation process had concluded, was not entitled to raise the issue on review because she had not raised it as an objection before the taxing Master.

The High Court was also satisfied there was "no actual substance" in the quantification point.

Taxing Master

Ms Justice Ni Raifeartaigh concluded it was not clear the Taxing Master committed a mere arithmetical error and/or that his ultimate conclusion on the solicitor’s instruction fee was manifestly the product of an error of that type.

She found the High Court correctly held that the general prohibition on raising new objections/argument in that court applied to Ms Leech in the circumstances of the case.

She further held Ms Leech is not now entitled to challenge the prohibition by means of an argument in relation to Article 6 of the European Convention On Human Rights where that was not pleaded or advanced in the High Court and was raised for the first time on appeal.

On the basis of those and other findings, the appeal was dismissed.

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