A High Court judge today set the amount of damages owed by Strutt & Parker to the Earl of Malmesbury over negligent lease advice at £1.24m.

Mr Justice Jack ordered the property consultancy, which has already paid the Earl £450,000, to pay the next payment of £550,000 by Thursday next week.

But the victory may turn out to be hollow for the Earl after the court heard he may have to pay up to £7m costs – five times more than he will receive in damages.

The Earl was initially claiming at least £100m after Strutt & Parker negligently advised him when negotiating leases on land being used by Bournemouth International Airport as a car park.

Initial claim

Strutt & Parker’s defence team argued that, because the claim had initially been for £100m, Strutt & Parker paid more defending the action than if the Earl had been claiming a more realistic sum.

He also claimed the Earl’s legal team had made the case needlessly long through their arguments – and should therefore pay costs for both sides.

‘The claimants were asking for £100m and they have recovered less than 1% of their claim,’ said John Gallagher QC for Strutt & Parker. ‘However you look at it that can’t be said to have amounted to success.

‘If this claim had been given to us on a proper basis they would have claimed between £1m and £6m. If that had been the case then we would have taken a completely different approach to the case.

‘No one spends on a £1m claim what they spend on a £100m claim.

Anthony Speaight, acting for the Earl, argued it would be unfair for the Earl, after being successful in the case, to end up paying money back to Strutt & Parker.

Mr Justice Jack ruled that the costs in the case, and who would pay them, would be decided at a hearing February next year.