A personal injury lawyer who inflated costs, put false information before a court, misled her insurer and “wrecked lives” has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said Kirna Devi Madhas admitted to a court during cross-examination that a conditional fee agreement (CFA) she had submitted was forged.
The tribunal described her misconduct in failing to inform clients of adverse costs orders, so they only found out when pursued for payment by defendants, as a “client’s worst nightmare”.
In one case examined by the tribunal, the client was not even informed of the court hearing date or the outcome of her case.
In addition, she failed to notify after-the-event insurers of advice from counsel that personal injury claims may well not succeed.
In assessing culpability, the tribunal found that Ms Madhas’s motivation was a “nakedly financial one and greed was at the heart of this matter”.
It said she had “wrecked lives” and quoted a client who said she was treated like a “throw-away commodity”.
The client described the impact of having a charging order made on her house over unpaid costs as “devastating”.
She explained how there had been ripples through her life, “the main one being the delay in starting a family because of the financial impact of having a charging order on my home”.
Ms Madhas, admitted in 2004, was sole director of GSD Law, based in Leeds. The firm was shut down in August 2019 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), after which its name was changed to MHK (Leeds) Ltd.
In December 2017, the Court of Appeal rejected GSD’s challenge to a ruling by District Judge Neaves, sitting at Leeds County Court, that the law firm had submitted a series of dishonest costs claims.
They included claims for hourly rates in excess of the retainer rates, claims for senior lawyers’ rates claimed for the work of junior fee-earners, and claims for work that had simply not been done.
GSD initially sought £225,000 in costs for 14 successful personal injury claims. The formal bills for costs that followed totalled just under £160,000 but were later reduced to £128,000.
Ms Madhas admitted the forged CFA during cross-examination and also to making false allegations to the Costs Lawyer Standards Board about the conduct of Allianz’s costs lawyer, Jon Williams of Williams Associates Costs Lawyers.
The SDT described the “unfounded and malicious complaints” made against Mr Williams as “disgraceful and outrageous”.
The tribunal heard that between February 2016 and November 2017 the Legal Ombudsman made awards against Mr Madhas for inadequate professional service in respect of eight clients, totalling £5,400 in compensation and a further £22,100 to repay the costs orders that had been made against them. She did not pay them.
When the SRA used a production notice to obtain access to 11 of her files, the sole practitioner provided only five of them. She also failed to provide the files to clients who had requested them.
Ms Madhas also submitted in 2018 a proposal to a professional indemnity insurer which said the firm had not been the subject to LeO rulings or an SRA investigation in the previous decade, both of which were false. The regulator had also investigated the firm in 2013 over its referral arrangements.
The tribunal ruled that she had been dishonest in the costs schedules and false document she submitted to court and on her insurance form.
Her actions had been “deliberate and calculated and she had clearly taken advantage of vulnerable people”, the SDT said.
“Many of her clients had suffered personal injuries and looked to her to help them obtain redress and they had not expected or deserved their vulnerabilities to be exploited by the respondent for her own gain and to find themselves in an even worse position.”
Ms Madhas was not present at her disciplinary hearing and did not engage with it, putting forward no mitigation. She was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.