The case of MacInnes v Hans Thomas Gross  contains some very useful information for any law firm or litigant considering the issue of indemnity basis costs awards. Pages 2 and 3 are the relevant pages to consider in the judgment.
In the case, the First Defendant applied for an indemnity basis costs award against the Claimant, but this was rejected by The Honourable Mr Justice Coulson, and in doing so he considered a number of authorities in relation to such awards. Those very useful authorities are at paragraph 3 of the judgment and are as follows:
- Indemnity costs are appropriate only when the conduct of the paying party is unreasonable “to a high degree. ‘Unreasonable’ in this context does not mean merely wrong or misguided in hindsight” see Kiam v MGN Limited .
- The court must therefore decide whether there is something in the conduct of the action, or the circumstances of the case in general, which takes it “out of the norm” in a way which justifies an order for indemnity for costs, see Excelsior Commercial & Industrial Holdings Limited v Salisbury Hammer Aspden & Johnson .
- The pursuit of a weak claim will not usually, on its own, justify an order for indemnity costs, provided the claim was at least arguable. The pursuit of a hopeless claim (or a claim which a party pursuing it should have realised was hopeless) may well lead to such an order, see Wates Construction Limited v HGP Greentree Allchurch Evans Limited .
The review of key authorities in the judgment is very useful and provides an excellent starting point for anyone tasked with considering whether to apply for an indemnity basis costs award.
Do remember that an indemnity basis costs award should always be sought in the appropriate cases, due to the fact that proportionality is not a consideration/factor when costs are assessed on the indemnity basis. There is also case law that supports the position that a receiving party is not restricted/held to its costs budget where costs are assessed on the indemnity basis (Slick Seating Systems  and Kellie v Wheatley ). CPR 3.18 also supports this.
The new test of proportionality has had a real impact (negatively for receiving parties) on some reported cases (see, for example, The new test of proportionality – 66% reduction) and therefore an indemnity basis award would provide protection for a receiving party from the new test of proportionality. Furthermore, there is a strong argument that an indemnity basis costs award escapes fixed costs (Broadhurst v Tan ) and therefore applications for indemnity basis costs awards may well be on the increase given the likely extension of fixed costs for civil and commercial litigation in the not too distant future.
This blog was prepared by Andrew McAulay who is a Partner at Clarion and the Head of the Costs and Litigation Funding Team. Andrew can be contacted on 0113 336 3334 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.