Interesting comments from the MXX v United Lincolnshire NHS Trust case

I posted a blog at the end of June about the case of MXX v United Lincolnshire NHS Trust (2018) (please follow this link to read the blog https://clarionlegalcosts.com/2019/06/25/ensure-consistency-between-your-costs-budget-and-bill-of-costs/).

In the Judgment of Master Rowley, there are some interesting points which I felt were appropriate to cite and share through this separate blog. Those points are as follows:

Master Rowley found that the inflated incurred costs amounted to improper conduct and said the following at paragraphs 57 and 58:

57.      The need to comply with the indemnity principle must be on page 1 of any introduction to the law of costs. It is fundamental throughout the issues regarding what sums can be claimed from one party by another. It is, or should be, engrained in everyone dealing with solicitor’s costs. Whether it is a detailed bill of costs that is being produced, a summary assessment schedule or even simply a breakdown in a letter being provided to the opponent, it is imperative that the costs set out as being payable by the opponent do not exceed the sums payable by the client to their solicitor. The case of Harold v Smith (1850) 5 H. & N. 381 is more than 150 years old but it remains correct that the sum claimed should not be a punishment to an opponent nor a bonus to the client (or solicitor) which is the effect of claiming more costs from the opponent than are payable by the client.

  1. I do not accept that the statement of truth for Precedent H is intended to be a composite statement or one akin to signing an estimate. If that was so, in my Judgement, the Statement would simply say that the document was a fair and accurate estimate of the costs which it would be reasonable and proportionate for the client to incur in litigation. But that is not what it says. It specifically refers to incurred and estimated costs separately and it seems to me that a solicitor signing a Statement of Truth has to consider whether the incurred costs figure is fair and accurate separately from whether the figures for estimated costs are fair and accurate. There is absolutely no reason why the incurred costs figure should not be accurate. There are many reasons to understand that the estimated costs figure is no more than educated guesswork. The change in the hourly rates for future work identified by Irwin Mitchell is one of those reasons.

    The importance of the indemnity principle (which I have blogged on previously and you can find here https://clarionlegalcosts.com/2019/02/12/the-indemnity-principle-what-is-it-is-it-important/) is clearly set out above at paragraph 57 of the Judgment.

    At paragraph 58, it is clear that the signature of a Precedent H should not be taken lightly, it is a statement of truth and is not akin to signing an estimate, the signature on the Precedent H is not intended to be a composite statement. Paragraph 58 also indicates that the courts do not expect the incurred costs to be calculated incorrectly because of the inclusion of any incorrect hourly rate/s. However, the courts would be open to the use of composite rates for estimated costs given that hourly rates could clearly change (both upwards and downwards) over time. If you consider this applies to any budget that you are preparing, then make this clear in the assumptions to your budget, this will provide you with protection on detailed assessment and ensure transparency with the court and your opponent.

In the Judgment, Master Rowley did not find that the significant difference between the costs claimed in the bill and those in the costs budget (144-147 hours) amounted to improper conduct. Master Rowley said the following:

61.      Similarly, I do not think that the claimant’s approach to the amount of hours claimed in the budget and subsequently in the bill founds any significant criticism. My understanding of the limit of 1% of the total budget for the preparation of the precedent H was originally allowed for on the basis that clients would have been billed for the incurred costs by that point and so relatively little work would be needed to consider the incurred costs. If that is correct, it takes no account of matters dealt with under contingency arrangements such as a CFA when no bill will have been rendered by the time the Precedent H is prepared.

  1. It seems to me to be unrealistic to expect a party to vet the time recorded on a line by line basis in the manner suggested by the Defendant here. The bill of costs has taken nearly 100 hours to prepare and that involves a considerable greater sum than would be allowed by 1% of the budget. Whilst I accept Mr Bacon’s comment that the extent of the remuneration is not the touchstone for the effort that should be involved, it does seem to me to be a pointer as to the expectation of the time to be spent in preparing a budget. Most of the time will be spent in the estimation of future costs and much less will be spent in relation to incurred costs. Including items which are unlikely to be recoverable between the parties’ assessment runs a risk of the budgeting judge concluding that those costs are high and commenting about this in the CMO.

  2. I do not think that it can be said to be unreasonable for a solicitor to include in the budget, the time that the various fee earners have recorded on their system as being sums which the client is potentially liable to pay.

  3. Similarly, having considered that time to be vulnerable to challenge on a between the parties’ assessment, it can only be reasonable for the drafter of the bill of costs to exclude such time. Where, as here, the time is extensive, the incurred costs actually claimed between the parties will be significantly reduced. But that does not necessarily mean that something improper has occurred when the budget was prepared, in my view.

Personally, whilst I cannot say that the discrepancy in time was improper, I struggle to accept the Master’s decision that there can be such a large discrepancy on detailed assessment (because the bill drafter excludes time when drafting the bill of costs). It is important that incurred costs are broadly correct in terms of time incurred and absolutely correct in terms of hourly rates. If not, it creates an incorrect starting point on detailed assessment and questions the signature of the costs budget. Furthermore, 1% can be a generous amount when preparing a high value costs budget (A £10 million budget would potentially allow a charge of £100,000 to prepare the costs budget).

The decision of the Master also troubles me for the following reasons:

  1. It is possible to prepare a budget as a bill of costs i.e. prepare a bill of costs which can be converted into a costs budget for the CCMC. Whilst this incurs greater cost, it effectively means that the costs are front-loaded so that the costs for drafting the bill at the conclusion of the matter are much lower.
  2. Lawyers have historically struggled with recording their time (and continue to struggle) in a way that reduces the time required to draft a bill of costs, not to mention time recording by using the phase, task and activity codes. It therefore surprises me that the Master seemed to accept an approach of calculating incurred costs by simply ‘lifting’ time from a time recording ledger. To my mind, time needs to be vetted correctly and incurred costs should not change significantly between those stated in the costs budget and those stated in the bill of costs.
  3. Where a costs management order has been made and the matter proceeds to a JSM or mediation, it can be possible for the parties to agree costs at the JSM or mediation based on the costs management order (Claimant providing some very basic updated figures). If the budget was not based on the accuracy expected within a bill of costs, then any breach of the indemnity principle would not be identified and there is a real risk that costs irrecoverable inter partes would potentially be recovered from the paying party.
  4. Furthermore, the Master’s approach is in real contradiction to the requirements of a document that contains a statement of truth, of which the budget is one of those documents.

    It is therefore imperative that the incurred costs figure is not only calculated correctly in terms of the hourly rate but is calculated correctly (with no significant errors) in relation to inter partes incurred costs. When litigating, each party should be able to proceed on the basis that the incurred costs included in the budget are correct and can be relied upon. Whilst the Claimant substantially reduced the incurred costs in the MXX case (which was to the benefit of the Defendant), it does raise a real question over the costs management process if a party can change their incurred costs figure, which in this instance was by nearly 150 hours.

The aim of this blog was to share some of the wider points which arise from the Judgment of Master Rowley. I would be interested to hear any other people’s views and opinions which can be shared through this blog.

Please note that the case was the subject of an Appeal and I will blog separately (and shortly) in relation to the outcome of the Appeal. The outcome does not impact the points raised in this blog.

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

Revising Precedent H Costs Budgets – Don’t delay

Revising Precedent H Costs Budgets

Don’t delay in applying to revise your Costs Budget if a significant development has occurred in your litigation, and on those occasions where there may have been a delay don’t shy away from applying.

It is not left to a party to choose whether to revise its budget and to take its chances on a detailed assessment, parties must apply to revise their budget if there has been a significant development in the litigation – Sharp -v- Blank & Ors [2017] EWHC 3390 (Ch) (21 December 2017) (hereafter Sharp).

In the event that there has been a significant development in the litigation, parties are not able to defer the determination of additional incurred costs to detailed assessment – those incurred costs form part of the request for additional costs:

Master Marsh “I do not consider the rules and practice direction intended that only certain elements of the costs relating to significant developments must be dealt with as revisions with the other elements, those pre-dating the hearing or, on another view those pre-dating the application, being dealt with on a detailed assessment. This approach would run contrary to the purposes of costs management and lead to unnecessary fragmentation of the costs dealt with at a detailed assessment.

Master Marsh found that the costs incurred from the costs management order and up to the application to revise the Cost Budget were not incurred costs for the purpose of the revision, they were future costs. Master Marsh focussed on the language of the CPR referring to the choice of the use of “future” rather than “budgeted costs”, as follows:

The language used in paragraph 7.6 is of critical importance because it provides the jurisdiction, on the defendants’ case to make the revisions they seek. It is notable that the language is at variance with the remainder of the rules and PD3E. It refers throughout to the revision of a “budget” (not, in accordance with the new wording, “budgeted costs”). It is explicit, however, that revision is in respect of future costs. The final sentence of this paragraph gives the court a discretion to approve, vary or disapprove the revisions “… having regard to any significant developments which have occurred since the date when the previous budget was approved or agreed”. On one view, such language points towards the last approved or agreed budget being the jumping off point for a revision because it is the budget that is being revised”.

Master Marsh concluded that the “Costs which have been incurred since the date of the last agreed or approved budget (or the antecedent date) that relate to significant developments are, for the purposes of revision, placed in the estimated columns of the revised Precedent H in one or more phase. In some cases, it may not be obvious where they go (for example a late application for security for costs) but I can see no reason why Precedent H may not be adapted as necessary to accommodate work that does not easily fit in”.

He also considered that there would be a degree of retrospectivity if the costs management regime was to work.

It is essential that you apply to revise your Costs Budget if a significant development has occurred in your litigation, to not do so puts you at risk of not being able to recover any costs that are in excess of your budget.

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.

 

 

A Complete Chronological guide to budgeting case law

There are many case authorities in relation to budgeting since the process was implemented, it is hard to keep track of them all. Here is a complete list of cases.

 

2014

Appeals

Havenga -v- Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust [2014] EWHC B25(QB)

General guidance

A & B (Court of Protection: Delay & Costs) [2014] EWCOP 8)

Hegglin -v- Persons Unknown & Google Inc [2014] EWHC 3793 (QB)

Thomas Pink Ltd -v-Victoria’s Secret UK Limited [2014]

Yeo-v-Times Newspapers Ltd  [2014] EWHC 2853 (QB)

 

2015

General guidance

BP -v- Cardiff & Vale University Local Health Board [2015] EWHC B13 (Costs)

(GSK Project Management Ltd -v- QPR Holdings Ltd [2015] EWHC 2274 (TCC)

Stocker -v- Stocker [2015] EWHC 1634 (QB))

Tim Yeo MP -v- Times Newspapers Limited [2015] EWHC 209 (QB))

Various Claimants -v- Sir Robert McAlpine & others [2015] EWHC 3543 (QB)

Judicial guidance cases

GSK Project Management Ltd -v- QPR Holdings Ltd [2015] EWHC 2274 (TCC)

Tim Yeo MP -v- Times Newspapers Limited [2015] EWHC 209 (QB)

Late filing of a budget

Simpson -v- MGN Limited [2015] EWHC 126 (QB)

Overspending on the budget

CIP Properties (AIPT) Limited -v- Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd [2015] EWHC 481 (TCC)

Excelerate Technology Ltd -v- Cumberbatch [2015] EWHC B1 Mercantile)

Parish -v- The Danwood Group Ltd [2015] EWHC 940(QB)

Simpson -v- MGN Limited [2015] EWHC 126 (QB)

Proportionality in budgeting

(BP -v- Cardiff & Vale University Local Health Board [2015] EWHC B13 (Costs)

Various Claimants -v- Sir Robert McAlpine & others [2015] EWHC 3543 (QB)

 

2016

General guidance

Agents’ Mutual Limited -v- Gascoigne Halman [2016] CAT 21

Campbell -v- Campbell [2016] EWHC 2237 (Ch)

Group Seven Limited -v- Nasir [2016] EWHC 629 (Ch)

Merrix -v- Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust [2016] EWHC B28 (QB)

Signia Wealth Limited -v- Marlborough Trust Company Limited [2016] EWHC 2141 (Ch) –

Agents’ Mutual Limited -v- Gascoigne Halman [2016] CAT 21

Late filing of a budget

Jamadar -v- Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust [2016] EWCA Civ 1001

Murray -v-BAE Systems PLC (Liverpool County Court, 1st April 2016)

Outcome of budgets and costs of assessment

Sony Communications International AB -v- SSH Communications Security Corporation [2016] EWHC 2985 (Pat)

Proportionality in budgeting

(Considers Agents’ Mutual Limited -v- Gascoigne Halman [2016] CAT 21

Group Seven Limited -v- Nasir [2016] EWHC 629 (Ch)

Revising the budget

Warner -v- The Pennine Acute Hospital NHS Trust (Manchester County Court 23rd September 2016)

The budgeting procedure

Agents’ Mutual Limited -v- Gascoigne Halman [2016] CAT 21

Merrix -v- Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust [2016] EWHC B28 (QB)

 

2017

Departing from the budget on detailed assessment

RNB v London Borough of Newham [2017] EWHC B15 (Costs)

General guidance

Harrison -v- University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital NHS Trust [2017]  EWCA Civ 792

MacInnes -v- Gross [2017] EWHC 127 (QB)

Napp Pharmaceutical Holdings Ltd v Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (UK) Ltd & Ors [2017] EWHC 1433 (Pat)

Judicial Guidance cases

Findcharm Ltd -v- Churchill Group Ltd [2017] EWHC 1109 (TCC)

Woodburn v Thomas (Costs budgeting) [2017] EWHC B16 (Costs)

Late filing of a budget

Asghar -v- Bhatti [ 2017] EWHC 1702 (QB)

Mott & Anor v Long & Anor [2017] EWHC 2130 (TCC)

Outcome of budgets and costs of assessment

Harrison -v- University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital NHS Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 792)

Merrix -v- Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 346 (QB)

Part 36 in budgeting

Car Giant Limited -v- the Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Hammersmith [2017] EWHC 197 (TCC)

Proportionality in budgeting

Rezek-Clarke -v- Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC B5 (Costs)

Revising the budget

Asghar -v- Bhatti [2017] EWHC 1702 (QB)

Sharp v Blank & Ors [2017] EWHC 3390 (Ch)

Sir Cliff Richard OBE -v- The BBC & Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [2017] EWHC 1666

 

2018

Departing from the budget on detailed assessment

Jallow v Ministry of Defence [2018] EWHC B7 (Costs)

Nash v Ministry of Defence [2018] EWHC B4 (Costs)

General guidance

Yirenki v Ministry of Defence, [2018] 5 Costs LR 1177

 

 

Yirenki v Ministry of Defence [2018] 11 WLUK 53 – Are hourly rates a good reason to depart from the budget?

When budgeting cases, the Civil Procedures Rules (CPR) under Practice Direction (PD) 3E para.7.3 provides that, when the Court is approving figures, the approval should “only relate to the total figures for budgeted costs of each phase”.

In this claim, upon costs management, the Judge approved both a number of hours for each phase, as well as individual disbursements in the budget. This approach is clearly contrary to the CPR. Parties often reserve the position in relation to their incurred costs, and the hourly rates on the incurred costs, to be dealt with at detailed assessment. Interestingly, Master Davison reserved the issue of the hourly rates for the future costs to also be dealt with at detailed assessment.

Reduction to the hourly rates

Now, we know from the case of Jallow v Ministry of Defence [2018] EWHC B7 (Costs) that, where there has been a reduction to the hourly rates for the incurred work, this is not a good reason to depart from the budgeted costs. Master Davison clearly differs in his opinion, given that he has reserved the position of the hourly rates specifically for the estimated costs.

This decision has since been appealed and has, not surprisingly, been allowed. It was said by Mr Justice Jacobs QC that the approach of Master Davison was contrary to the CPR. Relying on rule CPR 3.15(2)(b) specifically, he provided that the correct approach is clearly that the approved figure is meant to be a final figure, rather than a provisional one which the other side could later attempt to reduce.

Mr Justice Jacobs QC advised that the cost budgeting process is not meant to be a detailed assessment in advance and that the job of the Court is to approve a proportionate figure which can be relied on. The principle of reserving the position as to the hourly rates of the budgeted figures weakens the reliance that can be placed on the budget itself, supporting the case of Jallow v Ministry of Defence  [2018] EWHC B7 (Costs), in that hourly rates are not a good reason to depart from the budgeted figures.

 

The new statement of costs goes live on 1 April 2019

I have further updates regarding the new statement of costs following on from our January newsletter. The pilot scheme will operate from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021 and will apply to all claims in which costs are to be summarily assessed, whenever they were commenced. There will be two statements of costs which may be used whilst the scheme is in force; the N260A when the costs have been incurred up to an interim application and the N260B when the costs have been incurred up to trial. The N260 will be available in paper/pdf form and in electronic form. Parties are able to use the paper/pdf form only, however if they use the electronic spreadsheet form this must be filed and served in paper form and electronic means. The format has changed and the document schedule now requires the time entries to be dated. 

In cases which have been subject to a costs management order, any party filing the form N260B must also file and serve the precedent Q (which is a summary that details any overspend/underspend for each phase of the budget). Now that the court can identify overspends in the budget, will this additional layer of information result in more costs being summarily assessed and less detailed assessments? Will this assist with applications for payments on account? Will we see the N260B being used at trials that are listed for more than one day, to demonstrate that there hasn’t been any overspend in the budget and resultantly the budgeted costs being allowed in full? Possibly, but only if the incurred costs are identified separately to the estimated costs, please see my earlier blog for a more detailed analysis in that regard.

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.

 

A new year, a new statement of costs. But why stop at that? A few intended changes to Costs Management too

The CPR committee have been hard at work again coming up with solutions to the problems that have been encountered by the legal profession since the Jackson reforms nearly 6 years ago.  Following the scratching of many heads, a few of those creases have been ironed out and the following proposals have been made:

Statements of costs

A voluntary 2 year pilot scheme for the new statement of costs will be implemented, starting from 1 April 2019.

The current proposals are for two new forms of costs statements, namely N260A and N260B which may be used for summary assessment. These new forms will  include a VAT declaration and the forms will now include the signature of a legal representative, which is in line with the rules, as opposed to a company partner. The Form N260A will cross refer to the document schedule in the summary. No model forms are available yet.

Master Howarth has suggested that the precedent Q, the document that identifies whether there has been an under or overspend in a phase of a budget, is incorporated into the statement of costs. This will create transparency at the summary assessment stage regarding the amount incurred in comparison to the approved budget – supporting the need for a well drafted budget.

The committee is to give consideration to lower value cases and the relevance of statements of costs for those cases where there will never be a summary assessment, as there was concern regarding the wasted costs incurred in those instances.

Costs management

The precedent H costs budget will remain the same, but there will be some adjustments to the guidance notes to align costs budgeting with the new electronic bill approach.

There has been many a debate regarding what date the incurred costs should be included up to in the budget and there is tension in the wording of the rules in that regard. The committee have recognised this and have debated the very same problem. They have understood that differing practices appear to be in place and that overall there is value in a consistent approach. It has been advised that this issue should be resolved as part of a future review of the practice direction.

There will be some adjustments to the precedent R, however that is the only guidance that has been provided at this stage, so the amendments remain unknown for the time being.

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.