Costs of attending pre-inquest review can be recoverable

The judgment of Costs Judge James Briley & Ors v Leicester Partnership NHS Trust & Ors [2023] EWHC 1470 (SCCO) provides further insight into the recoverability of costs associated with a Coroner’s Inquest as part of the costs of a subsequent civil claim. Although it is usually accepted that such costs are recoverable in principle, it is not uncommon for paying parties to attempt to limit the extent of claims for costs. One area which is often targeted are costs in respect of pre-inquest review hearings, which can be deemed to be ‘housekeeping tasks’.

The claim related to a young woman who died whilst under the Defendant’s care. The deceased had a substantial history of mental health issues as well as Asperger’s Syndrome and a diagnosis of emotional unstable personality disorder. The deceased also had a history of self-harm and suicide attempts and had been admitted to various mental health units throughout her lifetime. The deceased passed away on 28 December 2016, having been found on her bedroom floor having ligatured with her clothing. The cause of death was an un-survivable hypoxic brain injury.

Following the deceased’s death there was a serious incident investigation which identified a number of concerns. Thereafter there was a further investigation and a future inquest. The deceased’s representatives subsequently brought claims against the Defendant for damages. The civil claims concluded before the inquest took place, however there were two pre-inquest reviews which addressed issues of expert evidence, disclosure, and witness evidence before the damages claim was settled in the sum of £65,000.

In the subsequent detailed assessment of costs, one of the issues between the parties was the extent to which the costs associated with the inquest were recoverable from the Defendant. In particular, the Defendant took issue with the costs of attending the pre-inquest review hearings, which amounted to a total of £14,770.67, including Counsel’s fees, Solicitors costs and disbursements.

The Defendant objected to all costs associated with the pre-inquest reviews largely on grounds that they denied that the costs incurred were of use in the civil claim. This was based on the submission that full admissions of liability had been made and the Defendant had apologised at the time of the deceased’s death. They also suggested that a pre-inquest review was largely ‘housekeeping’ and they relied on the decision in Amanda Helen Lynch (Representative of the Estate of Colette Lynch) and Others v (1) Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police (2) Warwickshire County Council and (3) Warwickshire NHS Trust [14 November 2014], which is an example of a Costs Judge disallowing the costs of a pre-inquest review.

In rejecting the Defendant’s arguments, the Costs Judge confirmed the importance of finding out what caused the death in the first place was a significant factor. It was also held that the fact that the deceased’s representatives had gone on to secure a meaningful apology and a commitment to learn lessons from the death were as important as the financial value of the damages recovered.

As regards the Defendant’s suggestion that the costs were of no use in the civil claim, the Costs Judge found that the participation in the pre-inquest reviews shed light on the treatment received by the deceased, which assisted in considering the non-negligence aspects of the civil claim. In addition, it was found that representation at the pre-inquest reviews helped prevent the Coroner from being influenced by the Defendant’s representatives which may have prevented key documents and facts coming to light. The costs of attending the pre-inquest reviews were therefore allowed in principle.

Bethany Collings is a Paralegal in the Costs and Litigation Funding team and can be contacted at or on 0777 951949.

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