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.

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Merrix v Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 346 (QB) – On appeal, Mrs Justice Carr confirms that the good reason test to depart from a budget relates to both downward and upward departures.

Merrix v Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 346 (QB) – On appeal, Mrs Justice Carr confirms that the good reason test to depart from a budget relates to both downward and upward departures.

The inter-action between costs budgeting and costs assessment has been considered again in the appeal of the case of Merrix v Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust [2016]. DJ Lumb found that:

It is not helpful in the context of this debate to consider “departure” within the meaning of CPR 3.18 as being upwards or downwards. It is important to understand that the departure refers to a departure from the budget not from a fixed sum. Just because a party has incurred costs that come in at under the total for a phase is not a departure from the budget. Applying the ordinary meaning of the words the party is still within the budget unless or until the Court revises the budget. It is not the replacement of one fixed sum with another fixed sum. The purpose of the form Precedent Q is to set out the differences between the actual expenditure and the budgeted figures for each phase. It is not intended to be some advanced assessment of the recoverable costs. If having completed a line by line assessment of the reasonable costs the Court considers that the costs are still disproportionate, the Precedent Q could be a useful breakdown for the Court to use to make adjustments to ensure the resulting figure is proportionate”. 

DJ Lumb concluded that the budget and the bill of costs were different tools for Courts to manage costs, which were applied at different times. Consequently, despite the cost claimed being less than the budget, DJ Lumb (Regional Costs Judge) ordered that detailed assessment was appropriate.

This decision has been appealed to the High Court and the appeal has been allowed, with Mrs Justice Carr finding:

“In my judgment, the answer to the preliminary issue is as follows: where a costs management order has been made, when assessing costs on the standard basis, the costs judge will not depart from the receiving party’s last approved or agreed budget unless satisfied that there is good reason to do so. This applies as much where the receiving party claims a sum equal to or less than the sums budgeted as where the receiving party seeks to recover more than the sums budgeted”.

This decision now falls in line with LJ Jackson’s report and the cases of Slick Seating and Safetynet. In 2012, in the case of Safetynet Security LTD v Coppage [2012] EWHC B11, HHJ Simon Brown QC stated that “since the Claimant’s costs were within the budget approved by the court, a detailed assessment would be an unnecessary and expensive course of action to take”. Costs were awarded in the Claimant’s favour, in the amount of the budget. Later in the case of Slick Seating Systems & Ors v Adams & Ors [2013] EWHC B8 (Mercantile), HHJ Simon Brown QC observed that the Claimant had “laudably kept within the budget and exercised due control over their activities and expenditure in an exemplary fashion” and that their budget was proportionate to what was at stake, he awarded the claimant their costs as claimed.

LJ Jackson’s view of how cost budgeting would work was explained at Chapter 40 1.4 (iv) of his report:

“At the end of the litigation, the recoverable costs of the winning party are assessed in accordance with the approved budget

And at Chapter 40 1.5 of his report:

“Issues for consideration. If costs management becomes a feature of civil litigation in the future, many issues will have to be considered before any set of costs management rules is drawn up. In particular: (iv) In so far as the last approved budget is binding, should it operate as an upper limit upon recoverable costs or should it operate as a form of assessment in advance? “

At Chapter 45 of his final report the Law Society noted that:

”If the costs management proposals set out in the Preliminary Report are accepted, it would seem that detailed assessment will have a place only in the context of cases where RP’s costs significantly exceed the budget”. The Commercial Litigation Association (“CLAN”) believed that “detailed assessment will become less common if costs management is adopted”.

That said, the case of Troy Foods v Manton [2013] EWCA Civ 615, Lord Justice Moore-Bick warned that an approved budget is not a licence to conduct litigation in ‘an unnecessarily expensive way’. He added that: “I do not accept that costs judges should, or will, treat the court’s approval of a budget as demonstrating, without further consideration, that the costs incurred by the receiving party are reasonable or proportionate simply because they fall within the scope of the approved budget.”

So, the question to be answered is – will your costs be allowed in full if they are less than the budget? Yes, unless parties can show a good reason to depart from the budget – Merrix  now confirms that this applies to both downward and upward revisions to the budget.

Sue Fox is the Head of Costs Budgeting 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 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.

 

Costs Budgeting – claims over £10m

In Signia Wealth Limited -v- Marlborough Trust Company Limited [2016] EWHC 2141 the court considered whether costs budgeting was appropriate.

Practical points

  • If there is no value on the claim form, then despite the amount of the claim – costs management applies.
  • The combined value of the claim for costs was considered when deciding whether the proportionality test was engaged.
  • Will an inequality of arms be a determining fact when deciding if costs management applies?  If making submissions regarding the same, then evidence to support the financial circumstances should be provided.

This was a high value claim and the court was asked to consider whether the claim should be taken out of the costs management regime.

The claimant identified that because neither the claim nor the additional claim had specified a monetary value in excess of the £10m limit, the claim was not automatically taken out of the costs management regime by virtue of CPR 3.12 (1)(b).

Costs budgets were filed and both parties’ claims for costs totalled £4.14m, the value of the claim was in the region of £13m. Consequently, the court found that the proportionality argument was engaged.

The court considered whether CPR 3.15(2) applied -“Where costs budgets have been filed and exchanged the court will make a costs management order unless it is satisfied that the litigation can be conducted justly and at proportionate cost in accordance with the overriding objective without such an order being made.

The court commented:

13. It is not in doubt now that this claim is within the costs management regime. That is so because neither the claim form nor the additional claim mentioned the value of £13 million, which is said to be the value of the shares which were held by the first defendant. Had the figure been mentioned in the additional claim form, then the costs management regime would not have applied.

14. It seems to me that, given that this claim is within the regime, the proper approach for the court to adopt is to apply the test set out at CPR 3.15(2), namely the court must be satisfied, if this case is to be taken outside the regime, that the claim can be conducted justly and at proportionate cost in accordance with the overriding objective without a costs management order being made. If the court is not so satisfied, then the claim must stay within the costs management regime.”

The court  further commented that the incurred costs as against the future costs needed to be considered.   “If a point had been reached at which point future costs were to be de minimus, there was little point it requesting parties to undertake the expense of costs management. Although costs management was occurring later than desirable, there were significant future costs to be incurred and therefore this was a case to make observations about costs which have been incurred”..

The defendant argued that there was an inequality of arms, the second defendant was an individual.  However, no evidence was provided to support her financial circumstances and therefore the court found that it would not be right to make a decision in relation to the costs management.

The court considered that the claim fell within the costs management regime and therefore the proper approach for the court to adopt was to apply the test set out in CPR3.15(2).

Because there were issues of proportionality which needed to be considered  and there were real benefits for the parties if there was a costs management order, the court ordered that there be a costs management hearing.

Sue Fox is the Head of Costs Budgeting 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.