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.
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.
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.
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.
Master McCloud exercised her discretion and declined 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.
The High Court determined that costs budgets of £1.5m in respect of a claim with a potential value of £80-120,000 were disproportionate, notwithstanding the wider issues involved.
On a detailed assessment of costs a reduction in hourly rates of the incurred costs is not a ‘good reason’ to depart from the budget in respect of the budgeted (future) costs.