Various Claimants v MGN – Some much needed clarity!

 

Bespoke budgets in multi-party litigation, proportionality, updating the incurred costs included in the budget prior to the CCMC, including the costs of interim hearings in the budget, disapplying the 2% cap for costs management and the resourcing of fee earners were all points that were dealt with at the most recent CCMC in the latest phone hacking cases (Various Claimants including (1) John Leslie (2) Chantelle Houghton v MGN Limited [2018] EWHC 1244 (Ch)).

MULTI-PARTY LITIGATION – The court’s approach to this multi-party litigation avoided the need for multiple costs management hearings for similar claims. The court applied a structure that was similar to a GLO and directions were made regarding managing the costs of the claim. Common and individual costs were split, and Costs Management was dealt with by the application of template budgets for individual costs and common costs. There were 3 categories of claims for the individual costs and the court could order that there be bespoke individual budgets in place of the template budgets. In this decision the court agreed that bespoke budgets were applicable to two of the Claimants, Leslie and Houghton.

THE BUDGET AND PROPORTIONALITY – Chief Master Marsh applied the proportionality test to the Claimants’ budgets commenting that “I would emphasise that the court is not required to have regard to the constituent elements of each budget phase (it may do so) and the court’s task is to decide whether the total for each phase falls within a range of reasonable and proportionate costs…. And the court is not looking to establish what the budget figure should be objectively ascertained, but rather a figure that falls within the applicable range applying the reasonableness and proportionality tests alongside each other.”

“The court must apply both the reasonableness and proportionality tests, but the former may yield to the latter. And, in practice, although PD3E, paragraph 7.3, requires the court to consider each budget phase separately, and therefore to consider the proportionality of each phase total, the task has to be undertaken with an initial overall review of proportionality by reference to the factors in CPR44.3(5)…

The costs in the budget phases must not only be reasonable but must also bear a reasonable relationship with the proportionality factors I have indicated. The proportionality factors that are relevant are to be taken together and given notional weight as a whole. In these cases, the sums in issue are not large for High Court claims when taken in isolation. But when the proportionality factors are put together, the financial value of the claims proves to be relatively unimportant because of the wider factors. The budgets substantially exceed the sums in issue but is not a reason to conclude that the overall budgeted sums and the totals per phase are disproportionate.

It seems to me that the wider factors I have summarised, in particular the public importance and test case factors, will have the effect that if the costs are reasonable they are proportionate. That conclusion chimes with the approach the parties have adopted and avoids the court wielding a concept of uncertain application.”

UPDATING INCURRED COSTS – There was a considerable time period between the date that budgets were required to be filed and when the CCMC was listed. Mr Leslie updated his budget prior to the CCMC to include incurred costs up to 1 May 2018, however the other parties did not. The Master recognised the problems of one party updating the incurred costs and the other parties not, explaining that this approach resulted in Mr Leslie having “ousted the court’s jurisdiction to consider a significant amount of expenditure” and consequently found that “the relevant date for the purposes of incurred costs as being 17 January 2018.”

This can be avoided by agreeing a date that the incurred costs are included up to and in turn obtaining the court’s permission to update the incurred costs.

HOURLY RATES – Chief Master Marsh refused to be drawn into the debate regarding hourly rates and instead considered the allocation of work in the budget between different grades of fee earner and the total figure claimed for each phase was of greater importance.

INTERIM HEARINGS – An amount for specific disclosure had been included in the disclosure phase, the Master found that the inclusion of interim hearings in the budget were wrong in principal as they may be subject to an inter partes costs order, the costs were moved into the contingency phase.

COSTS MANAGEMENT COSTS – The costs associated with costs management are subject to a 2% cap. Chief Master Marsh was asked to consider lifting the cap, he agreed on the basis that the complexities surrounding the multi-party litigation warranted exceptional circumstances in this case.

Any questions? Please contact me at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call me on 0113 336 3389.

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Should the additional liabilities be included in the budget to allow the proportionality test to be applied correctly?

Following the case of BNM v MGN Ltd (3rd June 2016) where it was found that the after the event insurance should be taken into account when assessing whether the costs were reasonable and proportionate, should the additional liabilities now be included in the budget to ensure that the proportionality test is applied properly at the budget stage?

According to the recent decision in  Various Claimants v MGN Ltd (21st July 2016) the Defendant accepted that under CPR, the Claimants are not obliged to disclose the amount of the success fee or ATE insurance as this could reveal the prospects of success. However, they referred to the case of  BNM v MGN Ltd (3rd June 2016) and argued that to enable the court to assess the reasonableness of the budget and apply the proportionality test then the additional liabilities now needed to be included in the budget.

Despite the court recognising that by taking into account the additional liabilities this allows a prospective view of proportionality, rather than a retrospective view, thus fulfilling the courts costs management duties, the court disagreed with the Defendant, referring to the provisions within the CPR, specifically the precedent H form and the precedent H guidance notes, concluding as follows:

  • I do not consider that the apparent change in the approach to proportionality on assessments (if there is one) means that there should be a change to the approach on the occasion of budgeting. The reasons for this are based on both the provisions of the rules and the Practice Direction and on the practicalities.
  • The provisions for costs budgeting are to be found in Part II of CPR 3. The procedures are dealt with in Practice Direction 3E. Paragraph 2(a) requires the court to have regard to the overriding objective and paragraph 6(a) provides:

“Unless the court otherwise orders, a budget must be in the form of Precedent H annexed to this Practice Direction.”

  • The first page of that precedent contains a summary which is amplified in the following pages. Below the summaries of costs under various headings there is included the following wording:

“This estimate excludes VAT (if applicable), success fees and ATE insurance premiums (if applicable), costs of detailed assessment, costs of any appeals, costs of enforcing any judgment and [complete as appropriate]”

Therefore, in light of the emerging case law on proportionality, the approach to the inclusion of additional liabilities remain the same and should be excluded from the precedent H.

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.

Failure to update the Budget and failure to serve the Statement of Costs – Simpson v MGN Limited & Anor [2015] EWHC 126 (QB)

In Simpson v MGN Limited & Anor [2015] EWHC 126 (QB), the Claimant failed to submit a revised costs budget to include the costs of a preliminary issue trial and failed to serve a costs statement on the Defendant.

The budget, which the Claimant had filed at the first cmc, included a contingency for a preliminary issue trial. This was not agreed between the parties and the Judge neither agreed nor approved this, simply marking the phase with N/A. The Defendant had also included a contingent phase for the preliminary issue, however the parties had managed to agree the amount, which the court recorded.

The Defendant argued that the costs relating to the preliminary issue trial should not be allowed on the basis that the Claimant had failed to seek a revision. The Judge considered the sequence of events, which included the Claimant providing the Defendant with an updated budget to include the preliminary issue phase. Despite the Claimant failing to request a revision from the court, the Judge found that disallowing the costs would be an unjustly disproportionate sanction, not sufficiently justified by the overriding objective.

The Judge commented as follows:

The application of the wording of CPR 3.18(b) is not so straightforward in the circumstances of this case, where (a) the receiving party has put forward a budget for this phase of the litigation but one that is not agreed or approved, or disapproved but considered inapplicable; and (b) the paying party has prepared a budget for this phase which has been agreed. I am inclined to think that the wording of CPR 3.18 was not aimed at such a situation, but rather at ensuring that once the court has reached a decision on what it is reasonable for a party to spend on a given phase that conclusion should be final in the absence of some good reason. However, that was not a point addressed in argument and I reach no conclusion on it. Assuming that I am wrong in this it seems to me that on the facts of this case there is good reason to depart from the budget approved by Master Yoxall for this phase of the litigation, by allowing recovery of some costs by the Claimant”.

The Judge also applied the principles in the CPR regarding failure to serve a statement of costs and used his discretion to reduce the statement of costs by 10%.

If you have any questions or queries in relation to this blog please contact Sue Fox (sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 3363389) or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 2460622.