Extension of time for commencing detailed assessment proceedings, serving of points of dispute and extending other time limits
The time limit for commencing detailed assessment proceedings and serving points of dispute is summarised in Sections 10 and 11. The parties may agree to extend this time. Alternatively, the receiving party can make an application for an order extending the time limit. Note that permission to commence detailed assessment proceedings out of time is not required. Note also that failure to serve points of dispute in time may lead to the receiving party obtaining a default costs certificate (as to which see Section 11).
In any case directions of the court may impose further time limits for the taking of certain steps, e.g. the service of witness statements. All these time limits may be extended by the agreement of the parties or, alternatively, by an order made upon an application.
Changing the date fixed for a detailed assessment hearing
A date fixed for the hearing of a detailed assessment cannot be changed or cancelled merely by the agreement of the parties unless the parties agree a compromise and the detailed assessment proceedings are settled. If detailed assessment proceedings are settled the receiving party must give notice of that fact to the court immediately (see Section 1 for details as to how to communicate with the SCCO). In all other cases, if one or all parties wishes to vary a fixed date, he or they must make an application in Form N244 or request the court to restore a previous application for hearing, if “permission to apply” has previously been given.
Amending bills of costs, points of dispute or replies
If a party wishes to vary his bill of costs, points of dispute or reply, an amended or supplementary document must be filed with the court and copies of it must be served on all other relevant parties. Note that permission is not required but the court may later disallow the variation or permit it only upon conditions, including conditions as to the payment of any costs caused or wasted by the variation.
Case management directions
Where appropriate any party can apply for case management directions, for example the exchange of witness statements and attendance for cross examination, or directions concerning the detailed assessment of “linked bills”, ie other bills of costs made in the same proceedings.
In the case of bills of costs exceeding £500,000, timetable directions may be given fixing a series of dates for the detailed assessment hearing. For example, if the estimated hearing time is five days, a one day appointment may be given for preliminary issues to be resolved, e.g., solicitor’s hourly rates, and all fees claimed in respect of the trial. A further appointment for the remaining points of dispute to be resolved will be listed some weeks later. By determining selected issues at the first appointment, the parties may be able to agree the remaining points so obviating the need for the later appointment.
In the case of larger bills where a significant amount of court time and costs will be involved the court will consider whether to order budgets to be prepared by the parties in relation to the costs of detailed assessment with a view to making a Costs Management Order.