Who did you agree with?

A vessel reported she was under attack from pirates off the coast of Aden. The pirates’ presence allegedly resulted in a fire breaking out on board the vessel and the crew abandoning her.

Shipbrokers were approached by a firm of solicitors (who were representing the interests of cargo insurers) to provide a valuation in respect of the salved ship’s value for use in the arbitration proceedings between owners and insurers. This correspondence was copied to a second firm of solicitors (who were acting on behalf of war risk insurers) as the brokers had provided a similar valuation for their clients.

In replying to the inquiry the brokers confirmed they could provide the valuation for a standard fee of £1,000 but also advised they charged for their time. The shipbrokers agreed upon (their standard) hourly rate of £300.00 with the cargo insurer’s solicitors. This exchange was not copied to the war risk insurer’s lawyers.

At some point thereafter a potential conflict of interest issue was resolved, resulting in the war risk insurer’s solicitors being retained by both sets of insurers and the other firm being stood down from the case.

The shipbrokers appeared as an expert witness in the proceedings. They billed £64,986.00 for their work at the rate of £300.00 per hour. The solicitors wrote back stating they could not find any evidence on their file they had agreed this

During the following exchanges it became apparent that the hourly rate of £300.00 had only been expressly agreed in writing with the cargo insurer’s lawyers.

The shipbrokers stated that although this may have been the case, they had advised both firms of their hourly rate during one of the meetings at their offices. Unfortunately there was no meeting note confirming this exchange.

ITIC contacted the lawyers and finally after numerous emails had been exchanged the invoice was paid in full.

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