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Legal Files

Bullock Order

In many areas of litigation, particularly in the superior state and federal courts, the unsuccessful party (the loser) in a case is ordered to pay the legal costs of the successful party (the winner). However in cases where there are more than two parties involved, it is not necessarily as clear cut as loser pays winner.

Take the following scenario:

Joe engages an architect, surveyor and builder to design and construct his new-build cliff top home. Half way through the construction phase, after weeks of heavy rain, a massive land slide on site sees Joe’s half built house tumble into the sea below. Joe decides to sue all involved. The builder issues a cross claim against the architect, alleging he designed a faulty building. The architect, who it transpires out-sourced most of the design work to a third party, issues a cross claim against that party. The surveyor issues a cross claim against both the builder and architect, seeking a contribution from either of them in the event he loses against Joe.

Following many days of hard fought litigation, the judge determines that: Joe’s claim against the builder and surveyor succeeds, however he fails against the architect. The builder’s cross claim against the architect fails. The architect’s cross claim against the third party also fails. The surveyor’s cross claim against the architect succeeds, however he loses against the builder.

Clearly, there have been a number of wins, and losses, by all involved. In this intricate web, who should pay Joe’s legal costs? Should Joe have to pay the architect’s costs, since he lost that part of his case? And what of the costs of the various cross claims?

In these situations, the Court can make a Bullock Order.

A Bullock Order can require an unsuccessful defendant to pay costs that include the plaintiff’s liability to pay the costs of a successful defendant. In our scenario, Joe might be ordered to pay the architect’s costs (since he lost that part of his case), which amount to $50. Under a Bullock Order, the builder or surveyor could be ordered to pay to Joe, not only Joe’s costs of the case (which are $100), but also the amount that Joe has to pay to the architect ($50). So, the builder or surveyor will have to pay $150 in costs to Joe.

As for the cross claims, because the surveyor won against the architect but lost against the builder, the surveyor is ordered to pay the builders costs of the cross claim. A Bullock Order is made, requiring the architect to pay the surveyor’s costs of the cross claim, plus the amount the surveyor has to pay the builder.

The name comes from the English decision of Bullock v London General Omnibus Co [1904-7] All ER Rep 44; [1907] 1 KB 264.

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