Squabbling neighbours notched up a £300,000 legal bills in a dispute over drain repairs costing £4,000, a city lawyer has revealed.
And another pair of neighbours spent £33,000 arguing about noise - when sound-proofing would have cost a mere £3,000.
The cases have been highlighted by Milton Keynes family lawyer and mediator Mary Banham-Hall.
The feels so strongly about disproportionate legal costs that she has launched a national petition asking the Ministry of Justice for common sense to prevail.
“My petition aims to stop ballooning litigation costs. The present court rule states that costs must be proportionate to the value of a case, however this is often ignored in practice,” said Mary.
She says this ‘proportionality rule’ is currently more honoured in the breach than the observance
“The result is that legal costs mount uncontrollably often way beyond any sum rational people would choose to invest in pursuing their claims.”
Mary has seen countless cases where costs exceed the amount at the centre of the dispute.
On one occasion a husband offered £100,000 to settle a dispute with his ex wife. Some £400,000 of legal fees later, the original offer was finally accepted.
The answer, says Mary, is mediation, she said: “Mediation is an increasingly popular dispute resolution procedure proven to settle between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of cases.
“It can be used in family, civil and commercial law.”
She is pushing for all litigants to be referred to a mediator as soon as legal fees reach 20% of the value of the dispute. Sign the petition on www.change.org/p/the-rt- hon-elizabeth- truss-costs