We found in Culliford & Anor v Thorpe  EWHC 2532 (Ch) that a payment on account can be made by the Court after the judgement has been made and after the Order has been sealed. Previously, it had been widely understood that a Part 36 agreement, as it is a deemed Order for costs under CPR 44.9(b), provides authority for a party to apply for an Order for a payment on account and the Court can make such an Order upon settlement, as obligated pursuant to CPR 44.2(8).
However, in the High Court case of Finnegan v Frank Spiers  EWHC 3064 (Ch),a successful professional negligence claim from last year, Mr Justice Birss ruled that the Court does not have the power to make an Order for a payment on account where a claim is settled by way of Part 36, as the agreement does not provide authority to do so.
It was considered and argued by the Claimant Counsel that the decision for a payment on account should be based on the authority under CPR 44.9 for a deemed costs Order. The Part 36 agreement is a deemed costs Order and provides authority for costs to be assessed on the standard basis, outlined under CPR 44.3(2) and which Part 36 indicates. Counsel for the Claimant relied on the rule under CPR 44.2(8) – where an order has been made for costs to be assessed by way of detailed assessment, as they would be here, then an order shall be made for a payment on account.
Presiding over the case, Justice Birss ruled that Part 36 was a self-contained code, as is written within the part. He highlighted that it is clearly not entirely complete given the inclusion of the CPR 44.9; however, as it is a self-contained code, it should follow that it should be treated as such. Part 36 contains its own authority for the consequence of costs following settlement, and as such, there is no reason that CPR 44.2(8) should be followed when looking at whether to make an order for a payment on account. Justice Birss stated that much of CPR 44.2 is not applicable to Part 36 settlement and therefore one could not correctly apply CPR 44.2(8) to the rule. This is because the place for any authority for making a payment on account following Part 36 should be within the Part itself, from which it is absent. Furthermore, the Defendant Counsel argued that CPR 44.9 is in place in order to trigger the detailed assessment proceedings; however, it does not include any other provision of Part 44.2 when triggering the process, therefore highlighting that it should be no different when dealing with Part 36. Justice Birss dismissed the Claimant’s appeal.
The ruling has caused much debate, and was a topic of discussion at the annual Association of Costs Lawyers Conference, in which even the Counsel for the Defendant, Mr Rupert Cohen, agreed with costs judges that perhaps the decision went the wrong way. I am sure that it will not be the last time we see argument over this point and will discuss further any decisions that arise on this blog.