A closer look at summary assessment

In the High Court case of ABS Company Ltd v Pantaenius UK Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 3720 (Comm), HHJ Pelling QC elected to assess costs at the end of a trial which was part of the shorter trial scheme. The actual judgement doesn’t deal with costs until paragraph 60 of the judgment, albeit it makes interesting reading in terms of super yachts!

The Claimant was successful in the main action, and the Claimant’s costs totalled circa £213,000. The statement of costs was phased in accordance with precedent H phases, albeit the matter was not subject to a costs management order. 

 The judge was mindful of his duty to undertake a broad brush approach to costs given that it was a summary assessment, and his aim from the outset was to ensure that he arrived at a figure that was reasonable and proportionate for the work undertaken. The judge recognised that current 2010 guideline hourly rates were “significant [sic] out of date” and that the “conventional approach in relation to guideline rates is to uplift them by about 25 per cent in order to reflect the effects of inflation…” He also recognised that “specialist solicitors in specialist areas of activity should recover an uplifted fee to reflect that specialism”. In addition, he considered the rate being charged by the opponent (an argument that is often seen within detailed assessment proceedings) in order to compare whether the parties were on a like for like footing with regards to charge out rates. The judge allowed the rates as claimed (the judgment did not state the hourly rates claimed).

The judge then considered his options in respect of the summary assessment and decided that it would be a disservice to apply a broad brush approach to the statement of costs globally and that, instead, he had a duty to look at the case on a phase-by-phase basis. Paragraphs 66 to 82 (paragraph 82 being the concluding paragraph to the judgment) provided an insight into how the judge undertook a summary assessment on a phase by phase basis. What is interesting is that the phased statement of costs resulted in a much more structured consideration of the work carried out, and allowed the judge to see with transparency the work that was undertaken at each stage of the claim. This, in turn, led to a well-reasoned summary assessment.

This article was featured in our February 2021 newsletter, see the full newsletter here.

Joanne Chase is a Senior Associate in our Costs and Litigation Funding Team. If you have any questions, please contact her on 07826 166 300 or at joanne.chase@clarionsolicitors.com

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