Confused by QOCS? A brief summary of everything you need to know…

Qualified One way Costs Shifting (QOCS) was introduced in April 2013 for personal injury matters and it is essentially a rule that means a successful defendant cannot recover their costs from an unsuccessful claimant except in specific circumstances (such as the claim being fundamentally dishonest).

2018 saw 3 decisions of interest; one from the Court of Appeal, and 2 County Court decisions that conflicted each other. It is likely that the issues in the County Court decisions will be tested again, hopefully with binding authority.

Court of Appeal – 28/06/18: Cartwright v Venduct Engineering Limited [2018] EWCA Civ 1654

This was a NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss) claim where the claimant pursued 2 defendants (as is often the case with industrial disease matters).

The claimant successfully negotiated settlement against defendant 1, and dismissed the claim against defendant 2. Defendant 2 argued that their costs (following the discontinued claim) could be enforced against the claimant up to the level of damages recovered from defendant 1. It was argued that the purpose of QOCS was to ensure that the claimant was no worse off after litigation had been conducted than before it had started. The court of appeal agreed – defendant 2 was entitled to their costs, limited to the amount of damages recovered from defendant 1.

This decision confirmed that a claimant was not entitled to QOCS protection when they issued against a defendant (in a multi defendant case where they succeeded against a different defendant) and their claim was ultimately unsuccessful (prior to this decision, the rule had been if no fundamental dishonesty had been proven by a successful defendant, then the claimant would be protected by QOCS in this scenario – the county court decision of Bowman).

The Cartwright decision means that litigators now need to be extremely vigilant when deciding against which defendants to issue their claim. If they do not adequately consider and evaluate the risks against each and every defendant, there is potential for a professional negligence claim.

The second issue decided in Cartwright was whether a successful QOCS defendant could enforce a tomlin order (remembering that a tomlin order is a record of settlement and not an order of the court). The rules state that QOCS applies to orders for costs made against the Claimant and therefore Cartwright found that defendants would not be able to enforce a tomlin order or Part 36 agreement in order to benefit from QOCS on the basis they are not orders made by the court. The order must either have been made at trial, or be within a consent order or provisional damages order.

Ketchion v McEwan – Jun 2018 (County Court decision)

This was an RTA matter where the claimant brought a claim for financial loss (but not personal injury). The defendant denied liability and issued a part 20 counterclaim for personal injury. The matter proceeded to a fast track trial – the judge found the defendant to be 100% at fault and therefore entered judgment and dismissed the counterclaim.

The claimant sought their costs but the judge ordered that the defendant was protected by QOCS (given the existence of his unsuccessful counterclaim). Therefore, despite the claimant succeeding in full, their costs were not recoverable as the defendant had QOCS protection. The claimant sought permission to appeal but this was dismissed – the judge found that the rules referred to “proceedings” and that this captured the claim AND counterclaim. It should not be limited to just the claim – any successful claim could be precluded from recovering costs by an unsuccessful counter claim.

Waring v McDonnell – Nov 2018 (County Court decision)

This was a claim involving 2 cyclists. One brought a claim for personal injury, the other a counterclaim for personal injury. The counterclaim was unsuccessful and the court found that the defendant/Part 20 claimant was not protected by QOCS. This decision was to deter the bringing of frivolous counter claims in order to avoid a costs order/benefit from QOCS. It was found that the defendant was not an unsuccessful claimant, but an unsuccessful defendant and that he would only have been entitled to QOCS protection if he had brought his own PI claim.

So, what’s next? 

It is recognised that there is currently some tension in the drafting of the QOCS rules, and that they need to be re-worded in order to iron out issues.  Currently, the term “proceedings” in Cartwright encompasses multiple defendants, however, in the county court decisions, “proceedings” do not include counterclaims.

There is also an increasing trend in defendants arguing fundamental dishonesty in order to set aside QOCS. There is currently limited authority on what constitutes fundamental dishonesty, however, the Court of Appeal decision of Howlett v Davies & Another [2017] EWCA Civ 1696 concluded that fraud did not have to be pleaded for the Court to make a finding of dishonesty. The defendant merely had to have given adequate warning to the claimant of their intention to submit evidence that could lead to the Court making such a finding, such as within their defence.

Finally, there is talk about extending the QOCS regime to non-clinical professional negligence claims, and also private nuisance proceedings. It, therefore, appears that QOCS is going to expand beyond the realms of personal injury in the not too distant future.

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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Non-Party Costs Orders

The case of Housemaker Services & Anor -v- Cole and Anor [2017] is a useful case for any litigant or law firm considering whether to make an application for a non-party costs order.

Facts

  1. The claim was brought under CPR Part 8 for a limitation direction under Section 1028 of the Companies Act 2006. The underlying claim related to three disputed invoices rendered by the First Claimant to the Defendants. The First Claimant had subsequently been struck off the register and dissolved.
  2. The Court dismissed the claim because the First Claimant could not demonstrate that the dissolution of the company had caused the claim not to be brought, and therefore the Court declined to give a limitation direction.
  3. The Court ordered the First Claimant to pay the Defendants’ costs on the standard basis. The Defendants applied for Mr Wayne Williams, the sole director of the Claimant, to be joined as Second Claimant to the proceedings, for the purposes of making an application for a non-party costs order against him.
  4. The Court made the order joining Mr Williams (Second Claimant) and then gave further directions for the application against him to be dealt with on paper. The Judgment essentially deals with those submissions and the Courts determination of the application for a non-party costs order against Mr Williams.

Submissions of Interest/Note

  1. Mr Williams gave instructions to pursue the proceedings and appeared to have funded them. The First Claimant had no assets and it was highly unlikely that they would be able to satisfy an order for costs.
  2. In respect of a non-party costs order, a warning at the earliest opportunity should be given. The first warning of the application was made at a very late stage.
  3. There was no suggestion that proceedings were brought in bad faith, for an ulterior motive or improperly. 

    Useful Information/Comments from the Judgment

     

  • Paragraph 10 – “A decision to make a non-party costs order is exceptional, but this only means that it is outside of the ordinary run of cases. In a case where a non-party funds and controls or benefits from proceedings, it is ordinarily just to make him pay the costs, if his side is unsuccessful, because the non-party was gaining access to justice for himself, and thus can be regarded as the real party to the litigation”. (this was a general comment about non-party costs orders).

 

  • Paragraph 11 – “However, the director of a limited company is in a special position. It is not an abuse of the process for a limited company with no assets to bring a claim in good faith. It is always open to a defendant to such a claim to apply for security for costs. The mere fact that a director who controls the company’s litigation also funds the claim is not enough in the ordinary case to justify a non-party costs order against him if the company’s case fails”. 

     

  • Paragraph 12“A company is indeed owned by its members. But this does not mean that the shareholder is the “real” party to the claim. In law, the assets of the company (including any claim) belong to the company, and not to the members. Where the proceedings are brought in good faith and for the benefit of the company (rather than for some collateral purpose), the company is indeed the real claimant. If it were otherwise, the principle of the separate liability of the company from its members would be eroded”. 

     

  • Paragraph 13“Moreover, it is not an unusual thing, let alone wrong, that a director who is a shareholder of a company and who funds the company’s claim will ultimately benefit from it if it is successful. It is simply a consequence of the policies adopted by our company law, allowing businessmen to take some risks in seeking profit without incurring unlimited liability”. 

     

  • Paragraph 14 – “A person choosing to deal voluntarily with (or to sue) a limited liability company does so against the legal background. Any potential unfairness caused to a party who is (involuntarily) sued by such a company is remedied by the security for costs jurisdiction”. 

     

  • Paragraph 15“Accordingly, in order to make it just to order a director to pay the costs of unsuccessful company litigation, it is necessary to show something more. This might be, for example, that the claim is not made in good faith, or for the benefit of the company or it might be that the claim has been improperly conducted by the director”. 


    Conclusion
     

    The Court decided that this was not a case where non-party costs order should be made. The Court did not find that the behaviour of Mr Williams in controlling, funding and ultimately hoping to benefit from the claim went beyond the ordinary case of the director and shareholder of a company pursuing a legal claim (paragraph 22). 

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