A PART 36 OFFER WHICH EXCLUDES INTEREST MAY BE VALID

A Part 36 offer in detailed assessment proceedings may be valid where it excludes interest under the Judgments Act 1838.

In Horne -v- Prescot (No.1) Ltd [2019] EWHC 1322 (QB) the Court held that a Part 36 offer on costs which excludes interest is a valid Part 36 offer, contrary to Ngassa -v- The Home Office [2018] EWHC B21.

CPR 36.5(4) states that a “part 36 offer… [for] a sum of money will be treated as inclusive of all interest…” In Ngassa it was held that therefore an offer which purported to exclude interest was not a valid Part 36 offer and therefore would not attract the consequences of Part 36.

However, in Horne the judge found that in detailed assessment proceedings, interest accruing under section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 does not form part of the claim for costs, as it is a statutory entitlement in respect of which the Court is not required to make any finding. Therefore, unlike interest which may form a part of substantive proceedings (for example interest under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1988) which forms part of the claim and must be Ordered by the Court, Judgments Act interest does not form a part of the “claim” for costs, and is not required to be ordered by the Court (though it may be disallowed).

Whilst the judgment in Horne is both legally sound and eminently sensible, as CPR 36 was not drafted with detailed assessment proceedings in mind (indeed until 2013 it was not possible to make a Part 36 offer in costs proceedings and is only now applicable due to a modification to Part 47 specifically applying Part 36 to detailed assessment) practitioners should bear in mind that Horne is a first instance decision and a different court on a different day may find differently. It may be prudent for practitioners to continue to include interest in Part 36 offers on costs until further authority clarifies the position. It is however a useful judgment to deploy where there is any dispute as to the validity of an offer.

Matthew Rose is an Associate in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him at matthew.rose@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 222 3248. You can contact the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

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Ensure consistency between your Costs Budget and Bill of Costs

Consistency and a true connection between Costs Management and Detailed Assessment is essential for the successful recovery of costs on Detailed Assessment.

If a costs budget is prepared incorrectly, which creates a disconnection between the costs budget and bill of costs, then you can expect a costs law obstacle course and a heavy migraine on detailed assessment.

The case of MXX -v- United Lincolnshire NHS Trust [2018] is a great example, which is summarised below:

Background, Retainer and Hourly Rates

The Claimant instructed her Solicitors in 2012 and the matter was funded by way of a Conditional Fee agreement with the rate for the conducting lawyer (Grade A) agreed at £335 per hour.

In August 2013 the rate for the conducting lawyer increased to £460 per hour (this was an error). In January 2015 the hourly rate was reduced to £350 (effective from May 2014). It was increased to £360 in 2015 and £365 in 2016.

The substantive proceedings related to a high value injury claim, with quantification being resolved in November 2016. The claim was subject to a Costs Management Order dated 2 March 2015.

Detailed Assessment Proceedings were commenced in March 2017 and the bill of costs totalled circa. £1.3 million.

Background to the Costs Management Order

At the CCMC, the District Judge dealt with estimated costs and correctly stated that the incurred costs were for detailed assessment. The hourly rate included in the costs budget for the conducting lawyer was £465 per hour.

In respect of the estimated costs, the Judge indicated a composite rate of £280 per hour, which the parties then used to agree the estimated costs for each phase.

Discrepancies between Budget and Bill

Following the commencement of detailed assessment proceedings, the Defendant compared the costs budget (Costs Management Order) with the bill of costs and noted the following discrepancies:

  • Substantial differences in relation to hourly rates.The hourly rate included in the costs budget for the conducting fee earner was £465.00 per hour, but in the bill of costs hourly rates of £335.00 and £350.00 were claimed; and
  • The bill of costs included roughly 144 to 147 hours less time for incurred costs than the costs budget.

The Defendant had legitimate concerns and made an Application for an Order pursuant to CPR 44.11, arising out of what the Defendant described as a mis-certification of the Claimant’s costs budget in the substantive proceedings.

Decision

It is well worthwhile reading the Judgment and the very articulate submissions advanced by both parties. This will help you to fully understand the decision, which was as follows:

  1. The Master did not find that the errors regarding the rates for the conducting fee earner (in respect of estimated costs) or the significant time discrepancies in relation to the time included in the costs budget and the bill of costs amounted to improper conduct.
  1. However, the Master did find that there was improper conduct in relation to the inflated rate/s claimed within the budget (as incurred costs).The Master had previously dealt with a case with some similar issues (Tucker v Griffiths & Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust 2017) and decided to apply the same sanction in this case as he did in that case, which was to disallow the items claimed in the bill of costs which related to the Costs Management Order.The Defendant had submitted that the Claimant’s bill of costs should be reduced by 75% due to the errors, but the Master said:“Whilst those behind the Defendant in both cases may have considered the sanction in Tucker to be insufficient, it seemed to me to be the only appropriate sanction. There is nothing wrong with the Bill in terms of the indemnity principle. The problem lies with the budget. I consider it to be entirely appropriate to impose a sanction in respect of the work which caused the problem.That work is the non-phase time spent creating and maintaining the budget. It would be wrong in my view retrospectively to disallow some of the budget itself”.

    The decision in this case (and in the case of Tucker) are both cases which were before Master Rowley at the Senior Courts Costs Office. Another Court/Judge could reach a different conclusion and I certainly expect to see this issue again before the Courts for the following reasons:

Lawyers do not time record consistently within their respective departments and firms, which means that discrepancies between budgets and bills will continue to regularly occur and a different Judge/Master may well adopt a more stringent approach;

Costs Budgets are regularly being prepared by non-specialists and prepared very “late in the day”, which leads to errors; and

There is a misconception that the costs budget is a more flexible document than a bill of costs i.e. the statement of truth to a bill of costs carries more weight than a statement of truth to a bill of costs.It is very important that all lawyers (and law firms) approach Costs Management consistently and understand the importance it has on detailed assessment. If that is done, then it leads to a consistent bill of costs, less obstacles on detailed assessment and no migraine – but maybe a headache!

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 mcaulay@clarionsolicitors.com or on 0113 336 3334

NB There are some other interesting points and views in the Judgment which I will cover in a further blog.

CONSEQUENCES OF BEATING A PART 36 OFFER: INJUSTICE

There have been various cases recently on how the courts consider whether it would be “unjust” to apply the consequences of CPR 36.17.

In White -v- Wincott Galliford Limited [2019] EWHC B6 (Costs) it was held that it would be unjust to allow an additional amount (CPR 47.17(4)(d)) for the whole of a claim where the offer had only related to some of the issues.

In Invista Textiles & Anor -v- Adriana Botes & Ors (costs judgment unreported) it was held that there is a high bar to demonstrate injustice. The ratio of the judgment suggests that the amount by which an offer has been beaten is at least not the only criterion which the Court should consider. Where a defendant / paying party seeks to argue that it would be unjust to allow some of all of the consequences of CPR 36.17 claimants / receiving parties would do well to refer to this authority as an example of the threshold for “injustice” which must be met.

It should also be noted that the court has previously held that the amount of the additional amount itself cannot be taken into account when considering whether it would be “just” to award the consequences of Part 36.17 per Cashman -v- Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust [2015] EWHC 1312 (QB). In that case, the court on appeal held that the assessing officer had erred in refusing to award the additional amount “not because he considered the making of such an award unjust, but because he thought it unjust to make an award of the required amount”.

There is currently some inconsistency in the judicial approach to the application of the test of injustice. In the opinion of the author, the test is a high bar (supported by White and Invista) and the mere fact that the additional amount of 10% may appear high does not of itself render the consequence “unjust”. The consequences of CPR 36.17 are intended to be punitive and the purpose of the exception for “injustice” is not to allow judges to “soften the blow” to a litigant which has failed to accept a Part 36 offer, but to avoid genuine injustice where there are “exceptional” circumstances.

Matthew Rose is an Associate in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him at matthew.rose@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 222 3248. You can contact the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

THIRD PARTY FUNDING – A VIABLE OPTION FOR 21ST CENTURY LITIGATION (Part 2)

This series of blog articles will address the increasing viability of third party funding as an alternative to traditional litigation funding methods. It will look at how the law has developed historically and how the Court now approaches third party funding and the potential liability of third party funders.

The second part of this series will explore the Court’s first acceptance of third party funding in the matter of Factortame Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions No.8 [2002].

Background

This matter related to a challenge brought by Spanish fisherman who sought to claim damages against the Secretary of State for the unlawful prohibition of fishing in UK territorial waters. A firm of accountants agreed with the Claimants to prepare and submit claims for loss or damage as a result of any losses suffered. The Accountants agreed to act in return for 8% of any damages recovered.

The Claimant’s succeeded in their challenge and were awarded damages and costs. On a preliminary issue the agreement was held to be not champertous and could be enforced against the Secretary of State.

The Defendant’s Challenge

The Defendant claimed that such an agreement was champertous and unlawful. It was argued that for an expert to act on a contingency fee basis would give the expert a significant financial interest in the case which is highly undesirable.

Decision

As stated in my previous blog, the tort of champerty had been abolished and the starting point for considering any arrangement was that it would be presumed enforceable unless there was a valid reason as a matter of public policy.

The Accountants had not acted as experts directly in this matter but had instead funded independent experts. Furthermore, by the time that they were instructed the issue of liability had already been decided.

Therefore, the Court held that such an agreement was not in the circumstances champertous or against public policy.

In the next part of the series…

The next blog will take a look at the liability of third party funders in litigation in the matter of Arkin v Borchard Lines Ltd (nos 2 and 3) [2005] 1 WLR 3055.


This blog was prepared by Kris Kilsby who is an Associate Costs Lawyer at Clarion and part of the Costs Litigation Funding Team.  Kris can be contacted at kris.kilsby@clarionsolicitors.com or on 0113 227 3628.

Success Fees and ATE Premiums post-LASPO – HH Law v Herbert Law Limited – Court of Appeal decision

The case of HH Law Limited v Herbert [2019] EWCA Civ 527

Background

This is a matter that was subject to a further appeal following the original appeal heard in March 2018. My colleague, Andrew McAulay, has prepared a useful summary of the outcome of that appeal and the background to the dispute which I will not repeat here.

Costs proceedings

In the subsequent appeal, HH Law (HH) sought to appeal two main areas; the reduction in the success fee, and the finding that the ATE Premium was a disbursement.

The Success Fee

The first ground of appeal put forward by HH was that, in a solicitor/client assessment, costs would be considered reasonably incurred and reasonable in amount if there had been express or implied approval by the client (CPR 46.9(3)). HH were able to successfully show that the documents provided to the client provided a ‘clear and comprehensive account of her exposure to the success fee and HH’s fees generally’.

However, it was under CPR 46.9(4) whereby the Court held that a success fee of 100% on the circumstances was unusual in both nature and amount. The Court of Appeal stated that the approach to calculating a success fee was to base it upon the solicitor’s perception of litigation risk at the time the agreement was made.

HH contended, within a witness statement, that it was a fundamental part of their business model to set the success fee on all cases at 100% irrespective of the litigation risk, and that such a business model was prevalent across the industry following the changes introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013 (LASPO). The Court of Appeal dismissed this approach and stated that there had been insufficient information provided to the client to ensure that informed consent was achieved in respect of the basis of setting the success fee at 100% for all cases irrespective of risk. The success fee was, therefore, held at 15%.

Comment: This may be considered an alarming result in the grand scheme of things and could lead to an increase in solicitor/client challenges to the level of success fee deducted from damages.

However, there is a simple solution to these challenges. The judgment firmly establishes that success fees should be calculated based upon the litigation risk at the date the agreement was entered. It is therefore essential to carry out a risk assessment when entering into the CFA.

The ATE Premium

HH had incurred the costs of the ATE premium and deducted it directly from the firm’s client account. Ms Herbert had contended that the premium was a disbursement and, therefore, could be challenged under a solicitor/client assessment. The Court carefully considered the definitions of what a solicitors’ disbursement was

‘a disbursement qualifies as a solicitors’ disbursement if either (1) it is a payment which the solicitor is, as such, obliged to make whether or not put in funds by the client, such as court fees, counsel’s fees, and witnesses’ expenses, or (2) there is a custom of the profession that the particular disbursement is properly treated as included in the bill as a solicitors’ disbursement’.

The Court came to the conclusion that an ATE premium did not fall within either definition, and that HH had been acting as an agent of the client when paying the ATE premium.

Comment: It was noted that the consequence of this finding would significantly reduce a client’s ability to challenge the amount of ATE premiums in future, and obiter, it was suggested that steps could be taken to bring ATE premiums within the definition of disbursements in future.

We still have places available at our next Costs and Litigation Funding Masterclass on 16 May 2019. https://lnkd.in/d33uy9e

This blog was prepared by Kris Kilsby who is an Associate Costs Lawyer at Clarion and part of the Costs Litigation Funding Team.  Kris can be contacted at kris.kilsby@clarionsolicitors.com or on 0113 227 3628.

 

Costs Capping Pilot Scheme

Sir Rupert Jackson’s proposal regarding costs capping is now a reality, with the launch of the voluntary capped costs pilot scheme on 14 January in London, Manchester and Leeds Business and Property Courts.

The aim of the pilot scheme

The aim of the scheme is to improve access to the Courts through:

  • streamlining the procedures of the Pilot Courts;
  • lowering the costs of litigation;
  • increasing the certainty of costs exposure; and
  • speeding up the resolution of claims.

The pilot will provide for a cap on recoverable costs for each stage of the case, and an overall cap on the total, rather than a fixed sum. The maximum a party will be ordered to pay will be £80,000.

The promise of a fixed recoverable costs scheme was first made two years ago by Sir Rupert Jackson in his IPA annual lecture “The Time Has Come”. His view was that “high litigation costs inhibit access to justice. They are a problem not only for individual litigants, but also for public justice generally. If people cannot afford to use the courts, they may go elsewhere with possibly dubious results. If costs prevent access to justice, this undermines the rule of law”. He predicted, or perhaps rather hoped, that the fixed recoverable costs project could be accomplished during the course of that year.

However, the flurry of chatter and speculation regarding the fixed recoverable costs scheme was left behind in 2016 and, as we moved into 2017, it was replaced with Sir Rupert’s proposals regarding costs capping, which he advised would follow the model used in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.

About the pilot scheme

This newly launched pilot scheme will last for two years. For those cases with a monetary value that are less than £250,000, and where the trial is two days or less, the voluntary pilot scheme is available. It cannot be adopted, however, for any cases where there are allegations of fraud and dishonesty; where extensive disclosure, witness evidence or expert evidence is likely; or where the claim will involve numerous issues and numerous parties.

Agreement of both parties is essential if the pilot’s shortened litigation process is to be pursued. The claim will exit the pilot if there is any dispute by any party in that regard. This shortened process is expected to be less costly, with the initial statements of case being limited in length and accompanied by the documents upon which the party proposes to rely.

Further, witness statements will also be limited in length, with the general rule being reliance on oral evidence of two witnesses. There are restrictions placed on expert evidence, which will only be permitted if the court is satisfied that it’s necessary, and it is likely to be on a single joint basis.

The trial judge will take a hands-on approach, to ensure that the trial estimate is adhered to, and has the power to strictly control cross-examination. When the several imposed time limits for filing the documents are considered collectively, the whole process – from the issue of the claim to the hearing of the trial – should not exceed 11 months.

The costs for each phase of the litigation is restricted to the cap and an assessment of costs is still required. Costs budgeting and detailed assessment are not applicable, with summary assessment being the favoured choice of the rule makers. The normal practice of filing the statement of costs prior to the hearing and the assessment of those costs then taking place at the trial will be avoided. Instead, the parties shall file and exchange schedules of their costs incurred in the proceedings not more than 21 days after the conclusion of the trial.

The schedules shall contain details regarding each applicable stage in the Capped Costs Table. The maximum cap of £80,000 for recoverable costs does not include court fees, VAT, enforcement costs and wasted costs, which are claimed additionally.

For those instances where Part 36 offers have been made the cap is increased to £100,000, and so Part 36 offers continue to play a central role.

With claims now able to be issued and pursued to trial in less than 12 months, and with costs not exceeding £80,000, will more parties engage in litigation? Or, conversely, will this restriction on the amount of costs that can be recovered be off putting? Only time will tell.

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.

When a simple theory becomes a complex reality; the interplay between costs management and detailed assessment

The Jackson reforms envisaged a world where legal costs would be dealt with through the click of a button. LJ Jackson introduced costs budgeting in a bid to control the level of costs spent, he revamped the concept of proportionality to limit costs for claims where costs incurred considerably exceeded the sums in issue, and he created the electronic bill of costs in a bid to remove the pain staking process of multi day detailed assessment hearings.

However, theories do not always play out well in practice. The plethora of costs case law relating to costs management, proportionality, and bills of costs since the reforms means that it is crucial, now more than ever, that a litigator approaches costs correctly if they are to reap the full reward of their labour.

Regardless of how a case evolves, if a litigator is fortunate to be on the favourable side of an inter partes costs order then, providing the Court orders that costs are to be assessed by way of detailed assessment (and not summary assessment), it is paramount that they present the costs claimed correctly if they are to limit their outlay on detailed assessment costs and maximise their profit recovery.

First and foremost, the litigator should be on the front foot. If the litigation is approaching a mediation or joint settlement meeting, it is wise for the litigator to know exactly where they stand in terms of costs. This is particularly important if there is a sense that the paying party may have an appetite to do a deal on both damages and costs. If the case has been subject to costs management, it is crucial that the costs incurred are carefully considered and calculated to show the extent to which the costs fall (or exceed, with reasons for such) within budget. This is the first question that any competent paying party representative is going to ask. If a precedent Q has been prepared, and the litigator is armed with sufficient information for reasons why any costs may fall outside scope (such that the Court did not provide for a mediation and therefore the costs of such fall outside the budget scope) then any negotiations are more likely to prove fruitful, whilst saving the paying party the additional cost of detailed assessment proceedings. This would not be possible without a phased breakdown of costs.

If, however, the parties are unable to reach an amicable agreement as to costs, it will likely be necessary for a full bill of costs to be prepared in order for detailed assessment proceedings to be commenced. This is where it is crucial that a costs lawyer who fully understands the intricacies of costs management orders and the inter play with the bill of costs should be utilised.

The SCCO’s decision from 29 October 2018 in the matter Vertannes v United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust shows just how crucial this understanding is. This matter had been subject to a costs management order. The Court then proceeded to order that revised budgets should be prepared to reflect a significant change in the litigation. The parties prepared but were unable to agree revised budgets, and the claim settled before the Court considered the revised budgets. The Claimant proceeded to file a bill of costs that failed to comply with CPR 47 PD 47.5.8(8) (“the bill must be divided into separate parts so as to distinguish between the costs claimed for each phase of the last approved or agreed budget”), the Claimant’s argument being that the Court never approved the revised budget. However, the Court found that at no time had the original costs management order been replaced, and that the bill should therefore have been split so as to reflect the position against the original costs management order. The Claimant was, therefore, ordered to re-draw the bill of costs.

The inter play between costs management and detailed assessment can be complex. The Court may make multiple costs management orders during the life of a claim, where by a previous order is “topped up”, which impacts the way in which a bill is drawn, or the Court may elect to only costs management certain phases of the case, which, again, has an impact on the bill. It is, therefore, crucial that the costs lawyer is aware of all the elements of the case that will impact the drafting of the bill so as to ensure compliance with CPR 47 and the accompanying practice direction, together with maximising recovery.

Joanne Chase is a Senior Associate Costs Lawyer in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors.

You can contact her at joanne.chase@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3327, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.