The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in January, 2013

Henry v News Group Newspapers Ltd

By on Jan 31, 2013 | 4 comments

I had a very interesting day at the IBC Solicitors’ Costs conference on Tuesday. I had been due to speak immediately after keynote speaker The Hon Mr Justice Ramsey. In the event, I swapped places with Master Haworth who needed to get back to court. This was a pity as it meant I didn’t get the chance to use the absolutely hilarious joke I had prepared about being grateful to Mr Justice Ramsey for agreeing to appear as my warm-up act. (When I say “hilarious” the term is perhaps relative. When I say “joke” the term is perhaps relative.) Significant attention during the day was naturally focused on the Court of Appeal’s judgment relating to costs budgets in Henry v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 19. This judgment has received significant attention with much of the initial commentary suggesting that costs budgeting has been torpedoed by this judgment before it has even been properly launched. Iain Stark, chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers, said: “This judgment sends out completely the wrong message to anyone involved in litigation. The government has made it clear that it wants costs budgeting to help constrain the spiralling costs of litigation, yet the decision flies in the face of this intention. Not only does it undermine the government’s efforts, but it also gives licence to further undermine costs judges and places yet more burdens on them. Rod Evans, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, said: “This is an extremely disappointing judgment. … We now have major concerns over the adherence to the new cost budgeting rules from the 1 April and what sanctions will be available to apply against those who don’t adhere. We are disappointed that the Court of Appeal has seemingly undermined the implementation of the Jackson reforms which are needed as a matter of urgency to tackle the current dysfunctional costs of civil litigation.” Interestingly, the unanimous view of those speakers at the conference who commented on the decision is that this is potentially a significant misreading of the judgment which was very much fact specific and due to it being concerned with a case proceeding under one of the pilot schemes. Paragraph 28 of the judgment...

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Provisional assessment

By on Jan 30, 2013 | 13 comments

The draft amendments to the CPR implementing Jackson state that provisional assessment will apply to all detailed assessment proceedings commenced in the High Court or a county court on or after 1 April 2013 where the amount claimed is £75,000 or less. The court will not award more than £1,500 to any party in respect of the costs of the provisional assessment. Even at Grade D rates that’s a maximum of a little under 13 hours work (rather less if the instructing solicitor has any input at a higher hourly rate and it is actually not clear from the draft rules as to whether the £1,500 is even meant to include any VAT). Not very much for what are sometimes fairly lengthy bills, particularly once additional liabilities are stripped out. Efficiency will rule. There will be no room for protracted negotiations. Make your best offer at the outset. Although, at that price it might be worth running rather more cases to...

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Bar’s new standard conditions of contract

By on Jan 28, 2013 | 1 comment

I note the Law Society has issued a Practice Note expressing a number of concerns relating to the Bar’s new standard conditions of contract. Amongst the clauses the Law Society has expressed concern over is that which provides for any hourly rate agreed with the barrister to be subject to reasonable periodic review by the barrister and that entitles the barrister to treat an agreement as terminated if the solicitor does not agree to any variation of the hourly rate. The Practice Note states: “There may well be obvious difficulties with this and you should discuss with your client whether they are content for this to be agreed”. Isn’t this clause just typical of the arrogant toffs at the Bar who think they should be allowed to unilaterally impose any revised hourly rate they want and well done to the Law Society for sticking up for the little man. Out of curiosity, readers might like to compare this clause to that within the Law Society’s own model Conditional Fee Agreement: “We review the hourly rate on [review date] and we will notify you of any change in the rate in writing.” The only thing the Law Society’s model CFA allows the client to do if they are unhappy with the new rate is to terminate the agreement. You couldn’t make it...

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Mesothelioma, success fees and ATE insurance

By on Jan 24, 2013 | 0 comments

Another of the anomalies relating to the piecemeal introduction of the Jackson reforms is the treatment of those bringing claims for mesothelioma. A policy decision has been made to postpone the end to recoverability of success fees and ATE premiums in these cases. The government explained, when announcing this decision: “Rather, we will implement the clauses in respect of those claims at a later date, once we are satisfied on the way forward for those who are unable to trace their employer’s insurer. The amendment commits the Lord Chancellor to carrying out a review of the likely effect of the clauses in relation to mesothelioma proceedings and to publish a report before those clauses are implemented.” Putting aside any arguments as to whether this category of claim is sufficiently unique to justify this exception, the issue that arises is how this operates with the other reforms that are due to come into force in April 2013. The Court of Appeal has announced that all personal injury claims settled after April 2013 (unless a CFA had been entered into and work commenced before that date) will attract a 10% increase in general damages. This is to compensate claimants for being unable to recover success fees after that date. It therefore appears that mesothelioma claimants will benefit from the 10% increase despite still being able to recover a success fee. Qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) is also due to be implemented in April 2013 in personal injury claims. Although I do not believe the final rules have been published as yet, it seems unlikely that an exception will be made for mesothelioma claimants. QOCS is designed to compensate claimants for the fact they will be unable to recover ATE premiums in the future. However, mesothelioma claimants will still be able to recover ATE premiums. Although they will not need ATE cover in respect of losing on liability if they benefit from QOCS, they will be able to recover the costs of ATE cover to protect them against failing to beat Part 36 offers. Lord Justice Jackson’s view was that Part 36 offers should “trump” QOCS. It therefore appears that mesothelioma claimants will be able to recover the costs of ATE policies...

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Bill of costs – estimated time

By on Jan 23, 2013 | 22 comments

With modern computerised case management systems it is bad enough to see any estimated time entries in a bill of costs but I have just received a bill where the time claimed for drafting the bill itself has been estimated. Seriously?

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