THE INDEMNITY PRINCIPLE – WHAT IS IT? IS IT IMPORTANT?

What is the Indemnity Principle?

A long-established principle which effectively means that a successful party cannot recover more in legal costs then they are liable to pay their solicitor under the terms of the contract with their solicitors.

Why does it exist?

To indemnify the winner for the reasonable legal costs incurred on the matter. In practice, the loser contributes to those costs.

If the indemnity principle did not exist, then a losing party could face a costs liability higher than the winner is liable to pay his solicitor. This would mean that a client would make a profit from the costs of the litigation which is not the intention of costs awards. The intention is to reasonably compensate the winner for the legal costs they have incurred.

Please note that there are some exceptions to the indemnity principle, for example, inter-partes claims for costs where the matter was funded by way of a Legal Aid Certificate, and fixed costs claims i.e. where the costs incurred are lower than the costs that can be claimed inter parties.

Key Case Law

Harold v Smith [1860] 5 H & N 381

Costs orders inter-partes are awarded as an indemnity to the receiving party. They are not awarded to impose a punishment on the party who pays them.

Gundry v Sainsbury [1910]

The Court of Appeal confirmed the underlying principle set out in Harold v Smith. The solicitor had acted for no charge and tried (unsuccessfully) to seek costs from the opponent. The court held that the solicitor was not entitled to recover costs as there was no agreement from the client to pay.

J H Milner & Son v Percy Bilton Limited [1966] 1 WLR 1985

Retainer (contract for services by the solicitor) is fundamental to the right to recover costs. No retainer equals no entitlement to recover costs from clients (and therefore no entitlement to costs inter-partes).

Is the Indemnity Principle important?

Taking into account the above cases (which remain good authorities) the indemnity principle is clearly very important and something which every contentious lawyer should have a sound knowledge and understanding of. Failure to do so can lead to serious professional consequences.

The importance of the indemnity principle is best illustrated by the case of Bailey v IBC Vehicles Limited [1998] 3 All ER 570 where the Court said that the signature of a Bill of Costs is that of an officer of the Court and that mis-certification of the Bill is a serious (disciplinary) offence.

In that case Lord Justice Henry said:

“the signature of the Bill of Costs under the rules is effectively a certificate by an officer of the Court that the receiving party’s solicitors are not seeking to recover in relation to any item more than they have agreed to charge under a contentious business agreement. The Court can (and should unless there is evidence to the contrary) assume that his signature to the Bill of Costs shows that the indemnity principle has not been offended”.

When lawyers sign costs budgets, statements of costs for summary assessment and Bills of Costs it is therefore fundamentally important to ensure that there is no breach of the indemnity principle.

I am now going to consider two recent cases regarding the indemnity principle:

Gempride v Jagjit Bamrah & Law Lords of London Limited [2018] EWCA CIV 1367

In this matter, the receiving party’s bill of costs claimed hourly rates higher than those which the client had agreed to pay their solicitor within the retainer. Furthermore, misleading information was provided in Replies to Points of Dispute in respect of the availability of before the event insurance.

The matter proceeded to the Court of Appeal where the Court imposed a penalty for the mis-certification of the Bill of 50% (Part 1 of the Bill of Costs only). Whilst the penalty in the end was not too severe, the real damage for the law firm was to its reputation.

HMRC v Gardiner and Others [2018] EWHC 1716 (QB)

This matter related to an appeal by HMRC in respect of an order for them to pay the Respondents’ costs in tax appeal proceedings. The Respondents were amongst several tax payers challenging penalties imposed by HMRC for incorrect tax returns.

The Respondent’s tax advisors were at the forefront of the work carried out. Counsel was instructed to represent the Respondents and the fees were paid by their tax advisors. HMRC alleged a breach of the indemnity principle (no direct retainer). That argument failed and the key points were as:

  1. There was never an agreement that the Respondents would never pay Counsel’s fees;
  2. Counsel was there to represent the Respondents, not their advisors;
  3. No difference to a trade union funding arrangement; and
  4. The key is a liability to pay (the Respondents were liable to pay the fees that were incurred, but the tax advisors paid them).This is a useful case to rely on where costs have been paid by a third party and a challenge is raised that there has been a breach of the indemnity principle as a result.


    Summary

    As you can see from the authorities, the indemnity principle has been with us for some time. Lord Justice Jackson recommended the abolition of the indemnity principle in his Final Report in 2010. He was of the opinion that the indemnity principle caused more problems than it solved. However, in my view the indemnity principle should always be in place whilst we have a cost shifting environment in England and Wales. Otherwise, it could encourage inflated claims for costs and allow clients to profit on the costs of litigation and therefore increase claims for costs – which would be contrary to the whole purpose of the Jackson Reforms!

    Do you have any views? – please feel free to share them.

    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 at andrew.mcaulay@clarionsolicitors.com or on 0113 336 3334 or 07764 501252.

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Court holds that an application under CPR 44.11 to reduce a party’s costs on the basis of misconduct is not a vehicle to give paying parties a “second bite of the cherry”

In Paul Andrews & Anor -v- Retro Computers Ltd & Ors [2019] EWHC B2 (Costs), Master Friston held that an application that the receiving party’s costs should be reduced or disallowed under CPR 44.11 on the basis of that party’s conduct was not to be used as a vehicle to contest the order for costs made by the trial judge.

This update is a summary of a complex and lengthy judgment. A full analysis will follow in due course.

CPR 44.11

CPR 44.11 states (so far as relevant) that:-

(1) The court may make an order under this rule where –

(a) a party or that party’s legal representative, in connection with a summary or detailed assessment, fails to comply with a rule, practice direction or court order; or

(b) it appears to the court that the conduct of a party or that party’s legal representative, before or during the proceedings or in the assessment proceedings, was unreasonable or improper.

(2) Where paragraph (1) applies, the court may –

(a) disallow all or part of the costs which are being assessed; or

(b) order the party at fault or that party’s legal representative to pay costs which that party or legal representative has caused any other party to incur.

The Case

The Defendants applied under CPR 44.11(2)(b) on the basis that the Claimants’ conduct had been “unreasonable or improper”. There was no suggestion that the Claimants’ legal representatives had acted improperly or that there had been a failure to comply with a rule or practice direction.

Summary of Judgment

The court held that:-

  1. An application under CPR 44.11 is not a vehicle to allow the paying party to have a “second bite of the cherry”, and that issues which were before the trial judge (or which the parties were reasonably capable of bringing to the trial judge’s attention) could not be considered on such an application;

2. The conduct complained of must have been relevant to the proceedings;

3. There is a high bar for establishing that the conduct was unreasonable; and

4. The sanctions the court can impose are limited.

Conclusion

It is important that solicitors and advocates ensure that issues of conduct are raised at trial and are incorporated into the order for costs.

The issues which the court can consider are wide-ranging but should generally have some relevance to the proceedings.

There is a high bar to establishing that conduce was unreasonable, that “unreasonableness” is to be interpreted narrowly, and is conduct which is so bad as to “permit no reasonable explanation” or which “the consensus of professional opinion would regard as improper”.

The sanction which the court can impose will generally be restricted to disallowing the costs which have been incurred as a result of the unreasonable conduct.

The effect of Payments on Account on Part 36 and Judgment

The case of Gamal -v- Synergy Lifestyle [2018] EWCA Civ 210 has reinforced the position that a payment on account does not “increase” the value of a paying party’s Part 36 offer when considering whether the offer has been “beaten” for the purpose of CPR 36.17.

Case Summary

The original action between Synergy Lifestyle (the Claimant / Respondent), and Ms Nivin Gamal (the Defendant / Appellant) related to a claim for unpaid invoices. For ease of reading, the parties are referred to throughout as the Claimant and Defendant respectively. There were various issues relating to the fraudulent nature of the invoices, applicability of VAT, payment or a carpet in October 2013, and the level of costs payable as a result, however these have been omitted for the sake of simplicity and ease of reading.

29 October 2013 – Defendant paid the Respondent £6,600

October 2014 – Claim issued for £151,000

24 August 2015 – Defendant’s CPR 36 offer of £15,000

8 February 2016 – Defendant pays £10,000 to the Claimant

10 May 2016 – Judgment for the Claimant in the sum of £14,275.49 (assessed at £30,275.49 less £16,600 already paid by the Defendant in respect of that work) and the Defendant pay the Claimant’s costs.

The Defendant appealed on the basis that she had beaten the CPR 36 offer of £15,000 and that the judge had failed to properly apply CPR 36.17.

Judgment on Appeal

Giving Judgment, Flaux LJ placed great reliance upon the earlier authority of MacLeish -v- Littlestone [2016] EWCA Civ 127. In that case, Briggs LJ had held that a Part 36 offer was made to settle the entirety of the claim, and that admissions made by a defendant do not have the effect of modifying the Part 36 offer such that it applied only to those parts of the claim which remained in dispute (i.e. a Part 36 offer made in respect of the whole of the claim relates to the whole of the claim, whether or not part of that claim is subsequently admitted).

In Gamal, the court extended this principle to apply not only where a payment had been made following admissions but to any payment on account whether or not an admission had been made. The effect of the payment on account was to reduce the amount which the Defendant could ultimately be ordered to pay, and therefore to a corresponding reduction to the Part 36 offer. As such, the Court dismissed the appeal, held that the Part 36 offer had not been beaten, and upheld the award of costs.

Summary

In summary, the judgment reinforces what many would consider to be the “common sense” position. A payment on account is just that; a payment in anticipation of a future liability. It therefore does not have the effect of making a defendant’s offer more attractive or a claimant’s offer less attractive.

The discussion regarding a “reduction” to the Part 36 offer in the judgment may be somewhat confusing, however this is simply because there are two ways of looking at the issue:-

1. The court gave judgment for £23,675.49[1], distinct from the balance of £14,275.49 payable once credit was given for the payments applicable payments on account (i.e. those made after the date of the offer). Looked at in this way,  the Defendant had obviously not beaten her own offer.

2. The court gave judgment for £14,275.49 (as a result of the payments on account), however just as the payment on account reduced the judgment sum, it also reduced the level of the Defendant’s Part 36 offer (i.e. the offer of £15,000 became £5,000 once the payment on account was applied). This is the approach the court adopted.

Both of the approaches above arrive at the same conclusion though by different methods.

All practitioners should note that whether a payment is “on account” is open to judicial interpretation however the general presumption is that payments made during the currency of a claim are payments on account unless specifically stated otherwise.

Matthew Rose is a Solicitor and Associate in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him on 0113 222 3248 or by email at matthew.rose@clarionsolicitors.com.

[1] In fact, the court assessed the value of the work at £30,275.49, which was necessary as the Claimant admitted that the invoices it had submitted were part of a fraud between it and the Defendant. However, the Claimant had already paid £6,600 towards this work in satisfaction of invoices prior to the commencement of proceedings. Therefore, the total value of the work done was found to be £30,275.49 but the total value of the claim against the Defendant was £23,675.49.

Voluntary capped costs pilot scheme in the Business Courts

Following on from my blog and newsletter (see below) over a year and half ago, it has now been announced that the capped costs pilot scheme will go live in January 2019 to coincide with the launch of the disclosure pilot scheme. The capped costs pilot scheme will apply to the Business and Property Courts in Leeds and Manchester (Chancery, Circuit Commercial and the Technology and Construction Court) and the London Circuit Commercial Court.

It is a voluntary scheme that will last for 2 years, with costs capped at £80,000.00.

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Blog published 20.06.17

Fixed Recoverable Costs – the pilot scheme

Following on from my newsletter below, the Civil Procedure Rule Committee meeting notes have been published today. Last month I explained how Jackson LJ had suggested how ‘capped fixed costs’ would work. The meeting notes have now confirmed how the pilot scheme will work, explaining that costs for preaction would be capped at £10,000, for particulars of claim at £7,000 and for defence and counterclaims at £7,000.

Many thanks to John Hyde of the Law Society Gazette who has reported that “Parties can claim up to £6,000 for a reply and defence to the counterclaims, £6,000 for the case management conference, £6,000 for disclosure and £8,000 for witness statements. Expert reports are capped at £10,000, with the trial and judgment costs limited to £20,000.

The working group dedicated to the pilot scheme proposes an overall cap of £80,000 rather than setting an actual fixed amount at this stage.

The proposal, backed in principle by the committee, is to run the pilot in certain specialist civil courts: the London Mercantile Court and three courts in each of the Manchester District Registry and Leeds District Registry. Any cases where the trial will go beyond two days, or where the value is more than £250,000, are excluded”.

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Clarion May 2017 Newsletter

Fixed Recoverable Costs. A taster of how the pilot scheme may work.

The judiciary have released an outline regarding how the fixed recoverable costs regime may work. Jackson LJ attended a costs seminar in Birmingham back in March 2017, which focused on mercantile and business litigation. At that seminar both Jackson LJ and HHJ Waksman outlined their proposals for the fixed costs pilot scheme, those proposals being subject to the approval of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee. The details of their proposals were as follows:

The pilot scheme will run in the London Mercantile court, and Manchester and Leeds specialist courts.

  • It is likely that the pilot will commence in October 2017 and will last for two years.
  • The pilot scheme is optional.
  • There will be a separate fixed costs list.
  • The pilot can be joined at certain stages:
    • The pre-action stage
    • No later than 14 days after service of the defence
    • At the case management conference (CMC)
    • Claimants can commence proceedings in the fixed costs list.

The Defendant has an absolute right to object to this, and if so then the proceedings would be removed from the fixed cost list.

  • The CMC will be the last opportunity to join the pilot.
  • Parties will not be able to withdraw from the pilot, apart from the Defendant if the Claimant issues in the pilot scheme (see above).
  • There will be a shortened process with strict case management .

The pilot is currently a ‘work in progress’, however it is envisaged that these proposals will be making their way to the Civil Procedure Rules Committee in June 2017, so these could be public by July 2017. It is currently predicted that:

  • Parties will be required to file their “core documents” (the documents that are relevant to the issues in the claim) with their statements of case, i.e. the particulars of claim, defence, reply and defence to counterclaim.
  • There will be no need for further disclosure, unless parties can justify this at the CMC.
  • If further disclosure is required, parties will need to apply for the same before the CMC. If the parties cannot agree, an order will be made.
  • At the CMC, the judge will suggest Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), including Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE).
  • The CMC will be the only interim hearing, this will include setting the trial timetable.
  • Consideration is being given to limiting the number of witnesses, the thoughts are that there will be one factual witness on each side.
  • Costs budgeting will not be required and there will be no pre-trial review.
  • The trial length will be up to two days (excluding judicial reading)
  • Cross-examination will be “very strictly controlled”.
  • An early hearing date will be guaranteed.
  • Judgments will be produced within a short period of time.
  • Pilot participants can expect “active and proactive” case management.
  • Costs will be summarily assessed at the end of trial.

The above proposals were made in March 2017, however since then there have been further proposals, as follows:

  • The pilot will only relate to claims that are less than £250,000.
  • The pilot will only relate to claims where the trial is no more than 2 days.
  • The pilot will only relate to non-complex matters.
  • The maximum costs that will be allowed will be £80,000. The pilot scheme will be similar to the IPEC costs regime. There will be caps for phases of litigation and those phases will be the same as the phases used in costs budgets.
  • Parties can only leave the scheme under exceptional circumstances, examples of those circumstances are; allegations of fraud, if the matter subsequently is listed for a 3 day trial.
  • Judgment will be handed down within 6 weeks.
  • The proposed ‘grid’ is not yet available and it is likely that this will not be available until the practice directions are published, so it may make its way into any July update to the rules. The main benefits of the pilot scheme are that claims will be resolved speedily and parties will be more aware of their potential costs exposure.
  • We will continue to provide updates regarding fixed costs, as well as all costs related law.

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.

Getting paid properly – Costs Estimates

Costs Estimates

Why provide an estimate of costs to your client in respect to their legal claim?

It keeps your client informed and therefore there are no surprises, this in turn manages your client’s expectation. This helps to avoid any dispute regarding the level of fees.

However, there is also the techy but important part!

Failure to provide information about costs and funding options for litigation is a breach of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct 2011 (SRA Code 2011),  your obligations are to “clearly explain your fees and if and when they are likely to change”.

Consequently, keep your estimate up to date, monitor the estimate and advise the client if the estimate requires changing – prospective thinking is the key.

The estimate must be clear and concise, must be worded in a way that is appropriate for the client and must be given in writing and regularly updated. The client should be provided with a detailed estimate, not just a ball park figure.

A solicitor is required to undertake a cost benefit analysis. The Code’s requirement in Rule 2.03 (6) is that “a solicitor discusses with their client whether the likely outcome in a matter will justify the expense or risk involved, including, if relevant, the risk of having to bear an opponent’s costs”.

It is essential that the cost-benefit analysis must be kept under review throughout the matter and reviewed with the client at key stages.

What is the impact of not providing an estimate?

Your client may argue that they would have given different instructions/or not proceeded with the matter if they had known: how expensive the claim would be, the length of time it would take, the level of their legal costs that would be recoverable from the other side and also their liability for the other side’s costs.

What if the client asks you to undertake out of scope work?

Explain that the estimate does not cover the additional work and provide a further estimate of the additional work. Advise the client if there is any risk that this work may not be deemed recoverable from the other-side. Failure to do so may result in those additional costs being disallowed.

Is a solicitor bound by their estimate?

Sort of!

If the client requests an assessment of their costs in accordance with the Solicitors Act, the estimate may be used as a “yardstick to measure reasonableness”. Any estimates that have been exceeded because they are simply wrong will be taken into account, together with the circumstances surrounding it, i.e. the reliance the client placed on the estimate and costs reduced accordingly.

Always provide a realistic estimate

Keep your estimate realistic at the outset. Even regular updating might not subsequently save a bad original estimate. The court’s view is that the first estimate is a critical piece of information for a client’s decision whether or not to embark on the action.

The Code’s requirements are for “best” information to be provided about costs. Therefore providing low estimates are unlikely to comply with the SRA Code of Conduct.

IN SUMMARY

Always provide a detailed estimate of costs.

Prepare a realistic estimate of costs.

Monitor the estimate and revisit with client throughout – costs/benefit analysis.

Identify and advise regarding out of scope work.

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.

 

COSTS PAID BY A THIRD PARTY – BREACH OF THE INDEMNITY PRINCIPLE?

The case of HMRC -v- Gardiner and Others [2018] EWHC 1716 (QB) is a case concerning an alleged breach of the indemnity principle.

Background

The Respondents were amongst several tax payers challenging penalties imposed by HMRC for incorrect tax returns. EDF Tax Defence Ltd (“EDF”) were the tax advisors.

The Respondents were successful and HMRC were ordered to pay their costs.

Costs proceedings

EDF were at the forefront of the work carried out in the matter. Counsel was instructed to represent the Respondents and the fees were paid by EDF. HMRC therefore alleged a breach of the indemnity principle on the basis that the Respondents had not paid Counsel’s fees and that there was no direct retainer in place between the Respondents and Counsel.

The argument failed and the key points to note are as follows:

  1. There was never an agreement that the Respondent would not be liable for Counsel’s fees (see paragraph 30 of the Judgment – “The presumption that a client instructing a solicitor or representative to represent them will be liable for costs incurred for such representative may be rebutted by the paying party proving that there was a bargain between the client and the representative that under no circumstances was the client to be liable for costs”).
  2. Counsel represented the Respondents at the hearing, not EDF.
  3. The arrangement was no different to a trade union funding arrangement.
  4. The key for the indemnity principle is a liability to pay and not payment/discharge of the liability (see paragraph 30 of the Judgment – “It is liability to pay rather than who makes payment which is material”).

Had evidence been produced that the Respondents would never have been liable for Counsel’s fees, then the Court would have reached an alternative conclusion. This is therefore a useful case to rely on for parties seeking costs which have been met by a third party, but are facing indemnity principle challenges from a paying party.

This blog was prepared by Andrew McAulay who is a Partner at Clarion and the Head of the Costs Litigation Funding Team. Andrew can be contacted at andrew.mcaulay@clarionsolicitors.com
or on 0113 336 3334 or on 07764 501252.