Confused by QOCS? A brief summary of everything you need to know…

Qualified One way Costs Shifting (QOCS) was introduced in April 2013 for personal injury matters and it is essentially a rule that means a successful defendant cannot recover their costs from an unsuccessful claimant except in specific circumstances (such as the claim being fundamentally dishonest).

2018 saw 3 decisions of interest; one from the Court of Appeal, and 2 County Court decisions that conflicted each other. It is likely that the issues in the County Court decisions will be tested again, hopefully with binding authority.

Court of Appeal – 28/06/18: Cartwright v Venduct Engineering Limited [2018] EWCA Civ 1654

This was a NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss) claim where the claimant pursued 2 defendants (as is often the case with industrial disease matters).

The claimant successfully negotiated settlement against defendant 1, and dismissed the claim against defendant 2. Defendant 2 argued that their costs (following the discontinued claim) could be enforced against the claimant up to the level of damages recovered from defendant 1. It was argued that the purpose of QOCS was to ensure that the claimant was no worse off after litigation had been conducted than before it had started. The court of appeal agreed – defendant 2 was entitled to their costs, limited to the amount of damages recovered from defendant 1.

This decision confirmed that a claimant was not entitled to QOCS protection when they issued against a defendant (in a multi defendant case where they succeeded against a different defendant) and their claim was ultimately unsuccessful (prior to this decision, the rule had been if no fundamental dishonesty had been proven by a successful defendant, then the claimant would be protected by QOCS in this scenario – the county court decision of Bowman).

The Cartwright decision means that litigators now need to be extremely vigilant when deciding against which defendants to issue their claim. If they do not adequately consider and evaluate the risks against each and every defendant, there is potential for a professional negligence claim.

The second issue decided in Cartwright was whether a successful QOCS defendant could enforce a tomlin order (remembering that a tomlin order is a record of settlement and not an order of the court). The rules state that QOCS applies to orders for costs made against the Claimant and therefore Cartwright found that defendants would not be able to enforce a tomlin order or Part 36 agreement in order to benefit from QOCS on the basis they are not orders made by the court. The order must either have been made at trial, or be within a consent order or provisional damages order.

Ketchion v McEwan – Jun 2018 (County Court decision)

This was an RTA matter where the claimant brought a claim for financial loss (but not personal injury). The defendant denied liability and issued a part 20 counterclaim for personal injury. The matter proceeded to a fast track trial – the judge found the defendant to be 100% at fault and therefore entered judgment and dismissed the counterclaim.

The claimant sought their costs but the judge ordered that the defendant was protected by QOCS (given the existence of his unsuccessful counterclaim). Therefore, despite the claimant succeeding in full, their costs were not recoverable as the defendant had QOCS protection. The claimant sought permission to appeal but this was dismissed – the judge found that the rules referred to “proceedings” and that this captured the claim AND counterclaim. It should not be limited to just the claim – any successful claim could be precluded from recovering costs by an unsuccessful counter claim.

Waring v McDonnell – Nov 2018 (County Court decision)

This was a claim involving 2 cyclists. One brought a claim for personal injury, the other a counterclaim for personal injury. The counterclaim was unsuccessful and the court found that the defendant/Part 20 claimant was not protected by QOCS. This decision was to deter the bringing of frivolous counter claims in order to avoid a costs order/benefit from QOCS. It was found that the defendant was not an unsuccessful claimant, but an unsuccessful defendant and that he would only have been entitled to QOCS protection if he had brought his own PI claim.

So, what’s next? 

It is recognised that there is currently some tension in the drafting of the QOCS rules, and that they need to be re-worded in order to iron out issues.  Currently, the term “proceedings” in Cartwright encompasses multiple defendants, however, in the county court decisions, “proceedings” do not include counterclaims.

There is also an increasing trend in defendants arguing fundamental dishonesty in order to set aside QOCS. There is currently limited authority on what constitutes fundamental dishonesty, however, the Court of Appeal decision of Howlett v Davies & Another [2017] EWCA Civ 1696 concluded that fraud did not have to be pleaded for the Court to make a finding of dishonesty. The defendant merely had to have given adequate warning to the claimant of their intention to submit evidence that could lead to the Court making such a finding, such as within their defence.

Finally, there is talk about extending the QOCS regime to non-clinical professional negligence claims, and also private nuisance proceedings. It, therefore, appears that QOCS is going to expand beyond the realms of personal injury in the not too distant future.

Joanne Chase is a Senior Associate Costs Lawyer in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors.

You can contact her at joanne.chase@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3327, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

 

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Qualified One Way Costs Shifting and CPR 36

Following the introduction of Qualified One Way Costs Shifting (QOCS), parties have begun seeking to find ways to try to recover their costs where they are not, on the face of it, recoverable. One of the methods currently being tried is to make a CPR 36 offer on the basis that beating a CPR 36 offer will entitle the defendant to all of its costs, assessed on the standard basis.Read More »