“Mandatory” offers in detailed assessment proceedings
I just had my first hearing dealing with an application to strike out Points of Dispute and have the Bill assessed as drawn due to an alleged failure to comply with PD 47 para.8.3:
“The paying party must state in an open letter accompanying the points of dispute what sum, if any, that party offers to pay in settlement of the total costs claimed. The paying party may also make an offer under Part 36.”
I’ve previously commented on how I consider these applications to be misconceived, at least if they are argued properly by the paying party.
The application notice argued:
“the Defendant has failed to make an open offer of settlement in accordance with Paragraph 8.3 of the Practice Direction to CPR Part 47.9. … The provision is a must provision and there is no discretion for the Defendant as to whether or not an open offer is made”
The Claimant’s Skeleton Argument continued in a similar vein:
“the Defendant served Points of Dispute without an open offer of settlement in breach of section 8.3 of the Practice Direction 47. … Contrary to the rule, the Defendant served Points of Dispute without an open offer of settlement… Section 8.3 is obligatory. The paying party ‘must’ provide the open offer”.
Whatever the other merits of the application might have been, it was brought on the basis that there is an absolute requirement to make an open offer when serving Points of Dispute. No such duty exists: note the words “if any”.
The Points of Dispute here had been served under cover of an open letter stating:
“We are awaiting instructions and will put forward an offer as soon as possible”
The judge accepted that this amounted to strict compliance with the Practice Direction. It set out in an open letter what offer, if any, was being made at that point: none. There was therefore no breach and the application was dismissed.
Barrister Sarah Robson reported on another similar unsuccessful application, made by the same firm, in the comments section of a previous post on this topic. I would be interested to hear the outcome of any similar applications, particularly where the point has been argued properly.