Partial strike out of the budget – Page v RGC Restaurants Ltd !

Partial strike out of the budget in the case of Page v RGC Restaurants Ltd !

Be wary when preparing budgets, do NOT prepare a budget up until a particular stage, unless the court orders otherwise. In this case, the Claimant had decided to prepare their budget up until the PTR stage only, the Master found that they had not complied with the CPR and limited the budget to court fees only. The Claimant appealed the decision on the grounds that a budget had been filed, questioning the Master’s irrational approach of limiting the budget to court fees, claiming that CPR 3.15 (the fact that the parties had agreed the Claimant’s budget up to the PTR stage) trumps the sanctions imposed by CPR 3.14 and submitting that the default sanction should be dis-applied. 

On appeal, the Master found that this was partial non-compliance rather than full non-compliance. So rather than striking the full budget out, the court struck out those phases of the budget where forecast costs had not been provided.

It has to be said, the preparation of partial budgets makes assessing proportionality impossible, which is an essential part of costs management. 

In practical terms, this is important for split trials. My advice has always been NEVER to prepare a budget up to the first trial, unless the court orders otherwise as there is the risk that the court will deem this to be non-compliant and the budget may be reduced to court fees. We now have case law which provides guidance regarding the approach to be adopted, which is helpful.  

Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of Costs Management in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

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Good news for those that prepare an accurate costs budget

Following on from the Court of Appeal decision in Jacqueline Dawn Harrison v University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust [2017] WECA Civ 792 where the Court of Appeal found that:

  • The budgeted costs will not be departed from in the absence of a “good reason”;
  • Incurred costs do not form part of the budgeted costs;
  • The good reason test does not apply to those incurred costs;
  • The proportionality test can be applied to the final claim for costs, despite the proportionality test having been applied when the costs budget was approved.

As predicted, we have seen that in practical terms this is good news for those that prepare accurate budgets, but not so for those that don’t. The practical implications of this Court of Appeal decision has an impact on the recovery of your legal fees, as follows:

If the budget has not been exceeded:

  • The budgeted costs will be allowed in full unless a good reason is demonstrated to depart from the budget;
  • A detailed assessment of the budgeted costs can be avoided.

If the budget has been exceeded:

  • The budgeted costs will be restricted to the amount of the budgeted costs that were approved, unless good reason can be demonstrated to depart from the budget.

Win win for those with well prepared budgets. In addition, following approval of the budget, further consideration should be given to the budget throughout the lifetime of the claim. Examples of which are as follows:

Q1. Is it necessary to consider the budget in preparation for the trial?

Answer – yes.

If you win and your budget has not been exceeded:

  • Ask the court to order that the budgeted costs claimed are allowed in full;
  • Only incurred costs will be assessed by way of detailed assessment;
  • If the trial is less than one day, ask the court to summary assess the incurred costs. The court may assess the budgeted costs, however if the costs fall within budget, these should be allowed in full. Present your budgeted costs in phases to demonstrate to the court that the budget has not been exceed on a phase by phase basis;
  • Assess any potential good reasons that your opponent may raise to depart downwards from your budget and be ready to defend those arguments;
  • Ask for a payment on account of the incurred costs, these remaining costs being subject to assessment.

If you win and your budget has been exceeded:

  • If no good reason can be demonstrated to depart from your budget, the court should limit your claim for costs to the approved budget amounts;
  • Therefore establish a good reason to depart from the budget so that the costs can be assessed by way of detailed assessment rather than being restricted to the approved amount of the budget. This will provide you more of an opportunity to justify your costs and overspends;
  • Request a payment of the approved costs, payable within 14 days;
  • Request a payment on account of the remaining incurred costs, payable within 14 days.

If you lose and your opponent’s budget has been exceeded, their budgeted costs should be limited to the budget:

  • The winner can obtain costs in excess of the budget if they can show a good reason to depart from the budget, so be ready so defend any good reasons that the winner may raise to depart from the budget.

If you lose and your opponent’s budget has not been exceeded, their budgeted costs should be limited to the budget:

  • A good reason is required to depart from the budget, therefore if you can identify a good reason to depart from the winner’s budget you can secure a reduction to the winner’s budgeted costs.

Q2. What are examples of a good reason?

Answer – examples of a good reason to depart down are:

  • Did the winner undertake all the work that was provided for in the budget?
  • Were there any adverse costs orders, amount needs to be excluded from the budget?
  • Proportionality test – does the proportionality test that was applied at the CCMC require revisiting?

Q3. Why raise those good reasons at the trial?

Answer

  • Defers the assessment of costs to detailed assessment, if deemed beneficial;
  • Minimises the amount of the payment on account;
  • Minimise the amount of budgeted costs payable.

Remember, incurred costs are subject to detailed assessment in the normal way – ensure that the court is aware that this is only applicable to budgeted costs.

Q4. What role does the budget have in securing a Payment on Account?

Answer – the court will scrutinise the amount that was approved in the budget when determining the amount of the payment on account.

  • If the court refuses to order the payment of your budgeted costs in full, and opts to order a payment on account instead, request the following amounts:
    • Thomas Pink Ltd v Victoria’s Secret UK Ltd [2014] EWHC 3258 (Ch) (31 July 2014) – POA of 90% of budget;
    • Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd v Sarens (UK) Ltd [2018] EWHC 827 (TCC) – POA of 70% incurred costs and 90% estimated costs.
  • Be ready to defend any good reason to depart from the budget that your opponent may raise, this will assist in securing the maximum payment on account, conversely remember to raise any good reason arguments to depart down if you are payer rather than payee.

Q5. What role does the budget have at the mediation or settlement meeting?

Answer – the budget enables parties to be fully aware of their costs exposure, so an informed decision can be made when determining whether to settle. Update the budget for the ADR meeting so that costs may be agreed at the same time and be ready with the same arguments in terms of departure from the budget that would be applied at the trial.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.

Be costs ready at trial if your claim is being heard in the SHORTER AND FLEXIBLE TRIALS SCHEMES

In the 100th update to the CPR, PRACTICE DIRECTION 57AB for SHORTER AND FLEXIBLE TRIALS SCHEMES has been published and is implemented from 1 October 2018. This Practice Direction supplements CPR Part 57A.

A claim in the Shorter Trials Scheme may be started in any of the Business and Property Courts.

Costs are to be assessed by way of summary assessment, save in exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, the court can order, or parties can agree that costs management applies and if a costs management order is made costs will be summarily assessed on a phase by phase basis.

Costs

2.56 – CPR 3.12 shall not apply to cases in the Shorter Trials Scheme, unless the parties otherwise agree. If at the outset of the proceedings the parties agree that Costs Management should apply, they should seek an order to that effect at the CMC and apply for directions as to when budgets should be subsequently exchanged, discussed and submitted for the court’s approval.

2.57 – Within 21 days of the conclusion of the trial, or within such other period as may be ordered by the court, the parties shall each file and simultaneously exchange schedules of their costs incurred in the proceedings.

2.58 – Such schedules should contain sufficient detail of the costs incurred in relation to each applicable phase identified by Precedent H to the Costs Budgeting regime to enable the trial judge to be in a position to make a summary assessment thereof following judgment.

2.59 Save in exceptional circumstances—

(a) the court will make a summary assessment of the costs of the party in whose favour any order for costs is made; (b) rules 44.2(8), 44.7(1)(b) and Part 47 do not apply.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.

The Disclosure Pilot Scheme – what roles do costs estimates and precedent H costs budgets have?

Details of the disclosure pilot scheme are now available on the MOJ website, with a large focus of the scheme centring around saving costs – accurate costs estimates are essential (PRACTICE DIRECTION 51U – DISCLOSURE PILOT FOR THE BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS).

In terms of costs, the pilot scheme reveals that costs estimates are now required to support different disclosure proposals; costs estimates of the intended disclosure exercise are required; estimating the costs of disclosure can be deferred until after the precedent H costs budget; costs don’t necessarily follow the event and be prepared for adverse costs orders being made. Be ready to be able to justify any estimates at a hearing and ensure that the estimates are accurate enough to be transferred across to the precedent H costs budget. Please see below some important paragraphs of the pilot scheme that relate to costs and estimates:

Costs don’t necessarily follow the event.

Para 9.9 – In an appropriate case, the court may order that the question of which party bears the costs of disclosure is to be given separate consideration at a later stage rather than the costs being treated automatically as costs in the case;

Para 10.3 – The parties’ obligation to complete, seek to agree and update the Disclosure Review Document is ongoing. If a party fails to co-operate and constructively to engage in this process the other party or parties may apply to the court for an appropriate order at or separately from the case management conference, and the court may make any appropriate order including the dismissal of any application for Extended Disclosure and/or the adjournment of the case management conference with an adverse order for costs.

Costs estimates are required to support different disclosure proposals.

10.6 – Having agreed the List of Issues for Disclosure and exchanged proposals on Model(s) for Extended Disclosure, the parties should prepare and exchange drafts of Section 2 of the Disclosure Review Document (including costs estimates of different proposals, and where possible estimates of likely amount of documents involved) as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event not later than 14 days before the case management conference.

Costs estimates of the intended disclosure exercise are required.

22.1 – The parties are required to provide an estimate of what they consider to be the likely costs of giving the disclosure proposed by them in the Disclosure Review Document, and the likely volume of documents involved, in order that a court may consider whether such proposals on disclosure are reasonable and proportionate (as defined in paragraph 6.4). These estimated costs may be used by the court in the cost budgeting process.

Estimating the costs of disclosure can be deferred until after the precedent H costs budget.

22.2 – In cases where the cost budgeting scheme applies, if it is not practical to complete the disclosure section of Form H in relation to disclosure prior to the court making an order in relation to disclosure at the case management conference, the parties may notify the court that they have agreed to postpone completion of that section of Form H until after the case management conference. If they have agreed to postpone they must complete the disclosure section within such period as is ordered by the court after an order for disclosure has been made at the case management conference. Where possible the court will then consider (and if appropriate, approve) that part of the cost budget without an oral hearing.

If the approach to Extended Disclosure is not fully agreed, the parties should be ready to provide more detailed information at the CMC as to how their global estimates were arrived at and the impact upon them of particular requests for Extended Disclosure.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.

The Pilot Scheme on Disclosure in the Business and Property Courts – how this affects Case Management

News story imageThe Judiciary have announced and published a proposed 2 year pilot scheme regarding disclosure across the Business and Property Courts (there are some exceptions that the pilot scheme will not apply to). There are some aspects of the pilot scheme that relate to Costs Management – there will be no obligation to complete the precedent H in relation to disclosure prior to the case management conference. In cases where the cost budgeting regime applies, following the disclosure order that has been made at the case management conference, the parties must complete the disclosure section of the precedent H within the period ordered by the court. The purpose of this delay is to enable parties to be able to reach an informed view regarding the likely costs of the disclosure exercise. A further short hearing may be necessary to approve those costs.

Of course, the decision regarding disclosure may have an impact on other stages within the budget resulting in additional amendments to the budget. The Judiciary recognise that there may be problems surrounding this proposal and have suggested that this may need further consideration, their intention seems to be that the calculations surrounding disclosure are based on sound footing rather than what can sometimes be crystal maze thinking in terms of the estimation of the number of documents that will require considering.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.

 

Are you J Code ready?

The J-Codes are a set of electronic codes proposed by Jackson LJ, where time is recorded in phase, task and activity. These codes were first published in July 2014 and over 3 years later the MOJ have now included guidance in their 92nd update to the CPR regarding phase, task and activity time recording. The MOJ have decided not to adopt the full J-Code structure proposed by Jackson LJ and have published an alternative and apparently simpler version of the Phase, Task, Activity (PTA) approach. That said, J-Codes can still be adopted or the Phase, Task, Activity (PTA) method can be used, it is down to choice.

The electronic bill of costs is mandatory for all Part 7 multi-track claims from 6 April 2018 and therefore Phase, Task and Activity codes (PTA codes) are crucial.  J Codes/ PTA codes however are not mandatory, although it is expected that any additional costs associated with the drafting of the electronic bill of costs due to PTA code time recording not being adopted, may not be recoverable on an inter-partes basis.

This only applies to work undertaken from 6 April 2018.
Recording time in line with phase, task and activity will at last enable budgets to be monitored with ease.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.

Proportionality and budget comparisons

Budgets were once again considered in the case of Red and White Services Ltd v Phil Anslow Ltd & Anor [2018] EWHC 1699 (Ch). This was a competitions claim about a bus company and its parking bays. In summary, the Claimant had the use of more parking bays than the Defendant, the Claimant sued the Defendant for trespass and the Defendant in turn brought, by way of a counterclaim, a competitions Act law claim against the Claimant and pursed a Part 20 Competitions Act claim against the Third Party.

All parties were ordered to prepare budgets with the Claimant’s and Third Party’s budgets being in similar amounts, each in the region of £1.5 million; and the Defendant’s budget coming in at just less than £300,000.00.

The Defendant not surprisingly submitted the Claimant’s and the Third Party’s budgets were seriously disproportionate, given that the damages in this claim were likely to be in the region of £80,000 to £120,000.

Mr Justice Birss commented that “It is essentially, although these are my words not counsel’s, an attempt to create figures for costs which are unrealistically low for the purpose of budgeting and to act as an unfavourable contrast to the figures from the claimant and the third party”

He considered proportionality and commented…

“I do not regard the budget costs figures in this case as proportionate or reasonable, particularly given the relatively limited nature of the disputes between the parties. The individual dispute which is worth the most is the overpayment/overvaluation claim. That will involve some quantity surveying evidence, although experience of such disputes leads me to suspect that this will not necessarily be extensive: the various valuation items in issue will probably fall into a handful of types or categories, so that once an expert has addressed the leading items in each category, there will be little left for the expert to do. The defects are a relatively modest element of this claim, so that even if they required both M and E and architectural experts, the involvement of such experts ought to be relatively limited.

He further commented that ..

“It is a matter for the defendant to have chosen to join both of those independent companies and therefore the fact that the two budgets together, each of £1.5 million, mean that the defendant could be bearing a cost risk of £3 million, does not seem to me to be a matter of great significance on the facts of this case. The individual budgets are the figures I need to consider, not the net risk to the defendant of aggregating the two.”

The judge, after applying the proportionality test and refusing to make comparisons with the Defendant’s budget, approved budgets for the Claimant and Third Party each in a sum not exceeding £800,000.00.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.