This was the first appeal in which the recoverability of inquest costs in civil claims has fallen to be considered since introduction of the Jackson reforms. It followed an assessment of costs by Deputy Master Keens in the SCCO when he allowed the sum of £88,356.22 as a against an original claim of £122,000 excl VAT. The claim was for damages for breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, negligence and misfeasance in public office following the death of Ms Jones who became ill at a police station.
The long awaited and much anticipated judgment in these appeals has been handed down.
The appeals raised a number of specific issues arising out of the respondent’s successful challenge on an assessment of the claimant’s costs to the amount of the ATE insurance premium recoverable by the appellants.
They also raised a number of wider points relating to reasonableness and proportionality and the proper approach to the assessment of costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of Master McCloud not to award the claimant a 10% ‘additional amount’ under CPR 36.17(4) on grounds that it would be disproportionate and unjust to do so where the claimant had beaten its own offer by just £7,000 on a bill assessed at £431,813.05.
Disagreeing with Judge Robert Owen QC in Potter v Sally Montague (Nottingham CC), HHJ Nicol found that a Part 36 Offer made in detailed assessment proceedings and expressed to be exclusive of interest was a valid Part 36 Offer.
In April 2013 the “old” proportionality test in the then CPR 44.4(2) was replaced by the “new” proportionality test in CPR 44.3(5). The essential difference being that necessity no longer trumps proportionality. There remain a few cases still being dealt with under the “old” rule. This was one of them. It was an appeal against decisions made by the Senior Costs Judge, Master Gordon-Saker in the course of a detailed assessment, including that the base fees, viewed globally, were not disproportionate.
This was an appeal from a decision of Master Gordon-Saker made in the course of detailed assessment proceedings brought under s70 Solicitors Act 1974. The Master had summarily dismissed the claimant’s points of dispute on work done on documents, on grounds that they did not further the overriding objective. Specifically, the points of dispute were not, “to the point”. They did not summarise all of the particular objections to the specific points which the claimant wished to advance at the hearing so that the court and the defendant knew or knew sufficiently the case the defendant had to meet.
It’s been six years since the introduction of the “new” proportionality rule in CPR 44.3(5). In that time there have been a handful of decisions at circuit judge level but none from the higher courts, until now. On appeal from Master Whalan in the Senior Courts Costs Office, The Hon. Mr Justice Marcus Smith was tasked with determining a number of issues arising from the detailed assessment of costs including the correct approach to proportionality. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the decision does not offer much in the way of general guidance.
This was a decision of Deputy Master Friston (author of Friston on Costs) in the Senior Courts Costs Office. Having determined that the Claimant had made and beaten a valid Part 36 Offer solely in relation to hourly rates the Master concluded that it would be unjust to award them an additional 10% uplift on the assessed profit costs.
Another important reminder of the importance of giving your client the best costs information possible throughout the life of your retainer. In this case the senior costs judge Master Gordon-Saker determined at first instance that notwithstanding the fact that the former client had not placed any reliance on any of the estimates provided to it by the solicitors, and acknowledging that unforeseen work had been undertaken, he was entitled to use the estimate as a yardstick in determining the reasonable costs payable as between solicitor and client. On appeal, Ms Clare Ambrose (Sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) declined to interfere with this decision.
Following his more widely reported decision on CPR 3.18(b) HHJ Dight declined to interfere with the Master’s ruling on proportionality where he reduced the claimant’s assessed costs from £52,000 to £40,000. The paying party appealed on grounds that the Master did not go far enough. She was unsuccessful.