This Court of Appeal decision concerned the circumstances in which the award to a Claimant who beats its own Part 36 Offer of some or all of the specified relief under CPR 36.17 may be considered to be unjust.
In this case Mr Justice Zacaroli determined that the Claimant’s Part 36 Offer to settle its claim in the sum of £48,290.00, which amounted to 99.7% of the amount claimed was a genuine offer to settle the proceedings
Having beaten his own offer at trial the Claimant was awarded indemnity costs under CPR 36.17(4)(b) from 21 days after the date on which it was made.
The Claimant also claimed indemnity costs on a broader basis and for a longer period by reason of the Defendant’s failure to engage in settlement discussions. or contemplate any form of ADR.
Can a Part 36 Offer which excludes interest be validly made either generally or in the context of detailed assessment proceedings?
It is been an issue on which a number of judges have held diverging views.
In the present case, His Honour Judge Dight CBE, upholding Deputy Master Campbell’s first instance decision, had concluded that an offer exclusive of interest cannot be a valid Part 36 offer.
In contrast, in a matter we reported in May, Horne v Prescot (No 1) Ltd  EWHC 1322 (QB), Nicol J, dismissing an appeal from Master Nagalingam, held that, at least in the context of detailed assessment proceedings, an offer excluding interest can be an effective Part 36 offer.
So, what is the answer?
In November last year we reported on the case of Finnegan v Frank Spiers  EWHC 3064 (Ch) in which Mr Justice Birss held that there is no jurisdiction to award a payment on account under CPR 44.2(8) in circumstances where a claim is settled by way of acceptance of a Part 36 Offer.
Allowing an appeal from a decision of HHJ Baucher in the Central London County Court Mrs Justice McGowan found than an offer to accept “nil pounds with an admission of liability plus reasonable costs, to be assessed if not agreed” made by a claimant in the course of an action against the police for false imprisonment and assault was a “significant concession” and therefore a genuine Part 36 offer.
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.
This was another in a line of cases which confirms that a Part 36 Offer cannot contain any provision as to costs. Disagreeing with Hildyard J in Proctor & Gamble Co v Svenska Celluslosa HHJ Paul Matthewsheld that he was bound by the Court of Appeal decisions in Mitchell v James and French v Groupama, neither of which had been cited to Hildyard J, that no term as to costs should be included in a Part 36 offer, even if to the benefit of the offeror.
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.
In this rare costs decision following a breach of confidence claim from their ex-employers, a multinational corporation, the defendants successfully persuaded HHJ Birss that despite his finding that the claimant had achieved a more advantageous outcome than their own Part 36 offer under CPR 36.17(1)(b), it would be unjust pursuant to CPR 36.17(4) to order that the usual costs consequences should apply.