The case of Gamal -v- Synergy Lifestyle  EWCA Civ 210 has reinforced the position that a payment on account does not “increase” the value of a paying party’s Part 36 offer when considering whether the offer has been “beaten” for the purpose of CPR 36.17.
The original action between Synergy Lifestyle (the Claimant / Respondent), and Ms Nivin Gamal (the Defendant / Appellant) related to a claim for unpaid invoices. For ease of reading, the parties are referred to throughout as the Claimant and Defendant respectively. There were various issues relating to the fraudulent nature of the invoices, applicability of VAT, payment or a carpet in October 2013, and the level of costs payable as a result, however these have been omitted for the sake of simplicity and ease of reading.
29 October 2013 – Defendant paid the Respondent £6,600
October 2014 – Claim issued for £151,000
24 August 2015 – Defendant’s CPR 36 offer of £15,000
8 February 2016 – Defendant pays £10,000 to the Claimant
10 May 2016 – Judgment for the Claimant in the sum of £14,275.49 (assessed at £30,275.49 less £16,600 already paid by the Defendant in respect of that work) and the Defendant pay the Claimant’s costs.
The Defendant appealed on the basis that she had beaten the CPR 36 offer of £15,000 and that the judge had failed to properly apply CPR 36.17.
Judgment on Appeal
Giving Judgment, Flaux LJ placed great reliance upon the earlier authority of MacLeish -v- Littlestone  EWCA Civ 127. In that case, Briggs LJ had held that a Part 36 offer was made to settle the entirety of the claim, and that admissions made by a defendant do not have the effect of modifying the Part 36 offer such that it applied only to those parts of the claim which remained in dispute (i.e. a Part 36 offer made in respect of the whole of the claim relates to the whole of the claim, whether or not part of that claim is subsequently admitted).
In Gamal, the court extended this principle to apply not only where a payment had been made following admissions but to any payment on account whether or not an admission had been made. The effect of the payment on account was to reduce the amount which the Defendant could ultimately be ordered to pay, and therefore to a corresponding reduction to the Part 36 offer. As such, the Court dismissed the appeal, held that the Part 36 offer had not been beaten, and upheld the award of costs.
In summary, the judgment reinforces what many would consider to be the “common sense” position. A payment on account is just that; a payment in anticipation of a future liability. It therefore does not have the effect of making a defendant’s offer more attractive or a claimant’s offer less attractive.
The discussion regarding a “reduction” to the Part 36 offer in the judgment may be somewhat confusing, however this is simply because there are two ways of looking at the issue:-
1. The court gave judgment for £23,675.49, distinct from the balance of £14,275.49 payable once credit was given for the payments applicable payments on account (i.e. those made after the date of the offer). Looked at in this way, the Defendant had obviously not beaten her own offer.
2. The court gave judgment for £14,275.49 (as a result of the payments on account), however just as the payment on account reduced the judgment sum, it also reduced the level of the Defendant’s Part 36 offer (i.e. the offer of £15,000 became £5,000 once the payment on account was applied). This is the approach the court adopted.
Both of the approaches above arrive at the same conclusion though by different methods.
All practitioners should note that whether a payment is “on account” is open to judicial interpretation however the general presumption is that payments made during the currency of a claim are payments on account unless specifically stated otherwise.
Matthew Rose is a Solicitor and Associate in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him on 0113 222 3248 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 In fact, the court assessed the value of the work at £30,275.49, which was necessary as the Claimant admitted that the invoices it had submitted were part of a fraud between it and the Defendant. However, the Claimant had already paid £6,600 towards this work in satisfaction of invoices prior to the commencement of proceedings. Therefore, the total value of the work done was found to be £30,275.49 but the total value of the claim against the Defendant was £23,675.49.