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.

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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.

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.

The format of the precedent H budget and precedent R are working well, claims Mr Justice Birss

At February’s Civil Procedure Rules Committee meeting Mr Justice Birss reported that “work was ongoing to make certain that the new bill costs, Precedent H and Precedent H Guidance are consistent and accurate and that N260 the summary costs statement follows the same format. The content of Precedent H itself would not be changing. The Chair added that in his experience having settled down, Precedent H and R are working very well“. Therefore no changes are expected to the precedent H budget or the precedent R budget discussion report, the remaining changes relate to the bill of costs and statements of costs.

The wholesale changes to costs that we have encountered over the last 5 years were made as a result of Sir Rupert Jackson’s report whereby he likened the current bill of costs to a “Victorian style account book” making it “relatively easy for a receiving party to disguise or even hide what has gone on”. His purpose was to create transparency and unison with time recording systems and costs related documents, hence the need for the new electronic bill of costs, which is the final piece of Jackson’s jigsaw.

If the legal profession were to embrace time recording as Jackson intended, i.e. recording time in phase, task and activity, then astonishingly some 5 years after the publication of his legendary reforms, Sir Rupert Jackson may achieve his aim. However, Sir Rupert narrowly missed having his vision fully formalised and embedded into the rules during his working lifetime, his retirement has pipped him to the post.  He can now sit back and watch from afar, how his intended co-ordinated approach to costs will work in reality!

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.

 

Proportionality – a common sense decision from Master Rowley

In the case of BNM v MGN Limited [2016] EWHC B13 (costs) the Senior Costs Judge applied the new test of proportionality to post Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) additional liabilities. The claim was for defamation and therefore the additional liabilities (despite being incurred post 1 April 2013) were recoverable inter partes (additional liabilities for defamation and mesothelioma cases remain recoverable inter partes post LASPO).

In BNM the Senior Costs Judge based his decision on the fact that pursuant to CPR 44.3(7) the old test of proportionality was not preserved for additional liabilities incurred post 1 April 2013. The key paragraphs from BNM on this point are as follows:

28 – It seems to me that the intention was that the rules as to the recoverability of additional liabilities would be preserved in relation to those additional liabilities which remain recoverable after 1 April 2013. However, the old test of proportionality was not preserved in relation to those additional liabilities. Had that been intended it could have been achieved quite easily by a further exception in CPR 44.3(7).

31 – A consequence of the reduction of the base costs to a proportionate figure will be that the success fee, a percentage of those base costs, also reduces. It would be absurd and unworkable to apply the new test of proportionality to the base costs, but the old test of proportionality to the success fee.

32 – Ring fencing and excluding additional liabilities from the new test of proportionality would be a significant hindrance on the court’s ability to comply with its obligation under CPR 44.3(2)(a) to allow only those costs which are proportionate.

In the case of King v Basildon & Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2016] EWHC B32 (Costs) Master Rowley reached a difference conclusion, albeit the additional liabilities in this care were incurred pre 1 April 2013 i.e. pre LASPO. Master Rowley’s decision was primarily based on the definition of costs in the CPR post 1 April 2013. The useful paragraphs of Master Rowley’s judgment to consider are as follows:

23 – The key phrase in the new proportionality test in 44.3 (5) states that “costs incurred are proportionate if they bear a reasonable relationship to ….”. The word “costs” as now defined refers to profit costs and disbursements but does not include additional liabilities. Given that the proportionality test in 44.3 (5) only applies to work carried out since that definition of costs has come into being, the obvious interpretation is that it only relates to the base costs of a CFA. It is not clear to me why additional liabilities should necessarily be caught by a test which is based on a definition recast specifically to exclude such liabilities.

24 – In my view, treating the word “costs” as only referring to base costs fits in with the provisions of Part 3 in relation to costs budgeting which were also brought into the CPR in April 2013. For example, in rule 3.15 the court “may manage costs to be incurred by any party in any proceedings” and in doing so will make a costs management order. Such an order will record the extent to which budgets are agreed between the parties and, to the extent they are not agreed, will record the court’s approval after making appropriate revisions. “The court will thereafter control the parties’ budgets in respect of recoverable costs”. Precedent H, which sets out the costs to be managed, expressly excludes any additional liabilities that may still be recoverable between the parties. Consequently, the only interpretation of the recoverable costs which the costs management order is controlling, is that they are the base costs of a CFA as set out in the Precedent H. The court is required to set a budget which is specifically described as allowing reasonable and proportionate costs notwithstanding that it excludes additional liabilities.

25 – In my judgment, being consistent with the costs management arrangements and avoiding bizarre outcomes in bills which involve both proportionality tests, point towards the rules being interpreted as continuing to require the court to assess the base costs and additional liabilities separately.

 26 – Furthermore, the purpose of the Jackson reforms in initiating a sea change could have resulted in Parliament disallowing the recoverability of success fee and ATE premiums from 1 April 2013. But it did not do so and has allowed for the run-off of recoverable success fees and premiums in the main and the continued recoverability of success fees or premiums in particular instances. It seems to me that the fact that additional liabilities are still allowed for by the provisions of CPR rule 48.1 simply means that they remain in existence. It does not mean that they have to be assessed in the aggregate with the base fees using a test which has no recognition of additional liabilities. This is particularly so when aggregation will render those additional liabilities effectively irrecoverable in practice”.

The approach of Master Rowley has recently been followed by Master Brown in the case of Murrells, Estate of v Cambridge University NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC B2 (Costs).

The following are useful extracts from the Judgment:

33(7) – …It seems likely that they will have entered into such arrangements in the reasonable expectation that the additional liabilities would continue to be recoverable as they were pre-LASPO. To apply the new test to additional liabilities in the way contended for would, however, require many litigants to submit to a substantial, if not complete, disallowance of their additional liabilities as against the other party or parties to the litigation, while at the same time the liability to pay an insurer or the lawyers the additional liability would be preserved. If that were right, it would inevitably lead to many litigants, including – it might be observed – victims of mesothelioma, having to give up deserving claims or defences. I agree with Master Rowley: in these circumstances, the defendant’s contention cannot be reconciled with transitional provisions and the clear will of Parliament. The intention must have been to provide, at the very least, an orderly retreat from the old funding scheme.

34 – In the circumstances, I respectfully disagree with the decision of Master Gordon-Saker in BNM as to the application of the new proportionality test to additional liabilities and therefore also as to the need to aggregate base costs with additional liabilities.

The case of BNM is currently on its way to the Court of Appeal, with a hearing date expected for October 2017. Hopefully, this will bring some clarity to the position, but until then expect lots of costs litigation over the point. Hopefully, the Court of Appeal will not simply address the additional liabilities in BNM, but also address the position of pre-LASPO additional liabilities in the context of the King case.

Personally, I think the position adopted by the Senior Costs Judge represents a drafting error in relation to CPR 44.3(7). The intention of LASPO in my view was very clear:

  1. Additional liability incepted pre 1 April 2013 = recoverable inter partes and not subject to the new test of proportionality
  2. Additional liability incepted post 1 April 2013 = not recoverable inter partes
  3. Additional liability (defamation and mesothelioma cases) incepted post 1 April 2013 = recoverable inter partes and not subject to new test of proportionality

Surely, it was never the intention for additional liabilities at 1 and 3 above to be recoverable only for them to be crippled by the new test of proportionality (resulting in a non-recovery)?  Surely, it was never the intention to specifically ‘carve out’ defamation and mesothelioma claims only for the additional liabilities to then be squashed on detailed assessment due to the new test of proportionality? This is particularly relevant in defamation cases where costs can easily dwarf damages.

What all this does show is the problems that can be caused when even minor changes are made to the CPR. I say this in the context of a significant extension of fixed costs on the horizon. There are fixed costs disputes every day at the moment in relation to portal cases and fast track injury cases where the numbers in dispute are very small. Where the numbers in dispute are large i.e. in multi-track fixed costs cases then this will undoubtedly cause satellite litigation, for example arguments about location, what stage the case settled and disbursements.

LJ Jackson thinks that fixed costs will bring certainly, but if Defendants (paying parties) are prepared to exploit a ‘gap in the rules’ as highlighted in the BNM case then expect Costs War 2 post implementation of fixed fees! The Courts are going to be busier than ever, which would be contrary to what LJ Jackson and the governments wants.

LJ Jackson maybe about to score an ‘own goal’ with his planned extension of fixed fees……

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

Proportionality in the Court of Protection

You will have all heard about the ‘Jackson Reforms’, which so far, have not been something that Court of Protection practitioners have had to be too concerned about – until now.

As part of the ‘Jackson Reforms’, a new test of proportionality was introduced. Proportionality now trumps reasonableness and ‘necessity’. Even if a cost was reasonable and was necessary, it can be disallowed on the basis of proportionality. The purpose of this reform was to tackle disproportionate claims for costs.

The case of BNM and MGN Limited (see https://clarionlegalcosts.com/2016/06/10/who-needs-fixed-costs/#more-876) is an interesting case to consider in relation to the new test of proportionality, where a bill of costs was reduced from £167,389.45 to £83,964.80 on the basis of proportionality. This is one of the first cases to really demonstrate the power of CPR 44.3 (2) (‘Jackson test of proportionality’), which states:

Where the amount of costs is to be assessed on the standard basis, the court will –

(a) only allow costs which are proportionate to the matters in issue. Costs which are disproportionate in amount may be disallowed or reduced even if they were reasonably or necessarily incurred; and

 (b) resolve any doubt which it may have as to whether costs were reasonably and proportionately incurred or were reasonable and proportionate in amount in favour of the paying party.

 This ‘Jackson test of proportionality’ is something that has primarily been having an impact on civil and commercial claims for costs, however, we (Court of Protection Costs team at Clarion) are now starting to see the new test being applied to Court of Protection cases.

Under the new test, the Senior Courts Costs Office must assess a bill of costs (line by line) and determine what is reasonable. Thereafter, the new test of proportionality can be applied. The Costs Officer has the power to stand back and ask ‘was this a proportionate sum to incur on this matter taking into account all the factors relating to the case’, and in some instances, the answer can lead to significant further reductions to a Bill of Costs.

Going forward, we believe that this is something that will have an impact on Court of Protection cases. Not only will your costs be assessed based on what was reasonably incurred, but the SCCO can also consider other factors, such as the value of the Protected Party’s estate and other non-monetary influences when considering whether the assessed (reasonable amount) is proportionate.

We considered a recent assessment whereby the Protected Party’s estate was worth approximately £46,000.00. The Deputy submitted a bill of costs totalling £12,200.00. The bill was provisionally assessed at £11,500.00, but was thereafter limited to £9,000.00 due to the issue of proportionality, as a result of the value of the estate.

There is no guidance as to what is proportionate in these cases, however, the Costs Officer has the authority to determine what is proportionate at their own discretion. It will be interesting to see how this is applied going forward and whilst this area is still developing, requests for reviews or appeals may be appropriate. Albeit the financial position of the Protected Party is key, other factors such as the conduct of the Protected Party, the complexity of the matter and any key elements (international and business) may be influential in justifying your claim for costs.

If this is something which you require assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact myself or our team at COPCosts@clarionsolicitors.com.

PROPORTIONALITY HITS FAMILY LAW

I have previously posted blogs on the topic of proportionality (Who needs fixed costs! and Proportionality continues to get tougher) and made the comment that it would be interesting to see how the area and application of proportionality develops.

Recently we have seen proportionality develop in the area of Family Law.  In the case of Kay v Kay [2016] EWHC 2002 (Fam) the successful party’s claim for costs was reduced on Summary Assessment from £33,813.00 to £3,737.50.  This was a reduction of approximately 89%.

The Summary Assessment was carried out by Mr Justice Macdonald and he felt that the claim for costs was unreasonable and excessive taking into account the circumstances of the case.  He said the following; “it is remarkable that such a significant sum of money has been spent by these two parents arguing over a single question the answer to which was indisputable from the outset.  The costs incurred in this case were disproportionate to the single issue at hand”.

During the Summary Assessment the Judge reduced items heavily such as hourly rates, attendances upon the client and work done on documents. Interestingly, no schedule (breakdown of time) was attached to the Statement of Costs in relation to the documents work. This no doubt contributed to the significant costs reduction.

The Judge conducted the Summary Assessment by assessing the claims within the statement of costs on a summary basis, which brought the figure of £3,737.50.  What he did not appear to do was assess the costs and then stand back and reduce the costs to what he thought was a proportionate amount.  Clearly, in this case the Judge must have felt comfortable with the ‘end’ amount or when he conducted the summary assessment he applied the tests of reasonableness and proportionality at the same time.  In the cases of Who needs fixed costs! and Proportionality continues to get tougher (both detailed assessments and not summary assessments) both Judges determined what was reasonable and then ‘sat back’ and reduced the claims for costs to what they deemed were proportionate amounts. This is the approach that LJ Jackson set out in his final report at Part 1, chapter 3, paragraph 5.13:

In other words, I propose that in an assessment of costs on the standard basis, proportionality should prevail over reasonableness and the proportionality test should be applied on a global basis. The court should first make an assessment of reasonable costs, having regard to the individual items in the bill, the time reasonably spent on those items and the other factors listed in CPR rule 44.5(3). The court should then stand back and consider whether the total figure is proportionate. If the total figure is not proportionate, the court should make an appropriate reduction. There is already a precedent for this approach in relation to the assessment of legal aid costs in criminal proceedings: see R v Supreme Court Taxing Office ex p John Singh and Co [1997] 1 Costs LR 49.

The case demonstrates that the new test of proportionality is not just limited to the areas of Civil and Commercial Litigation, but equally applies to the area of Family Law.  Effectively, regardless of the area of law, where legal costs are to be assessed pursuant to CPR 44.3(2) then the new test of proportionality (the ‘Jackson’ test) applies.

Finally, this is another example of the Courts tackling disproportionate legal costs and demonstrates that the Court has the tools already to deal with disproportionate claims for costs and that fixed costs are not required.

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