The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in April, 2014

Increased legal costs work

By on Apr 23, 2014 | 17 comments

The majority of those working in costs have never been busier. We are still benefiting from the historical increases in personal injury claims, with settlements now flowing into new costs work. The transitional provisions relating to the introduction of the Jackson reforms have meant those areas of costs work that will reduce or disappear (eg fast-track personal injury claims) have yet to bite or are only just beginning to be felt (eg reduced numbers of detailed assessment hearings in light of provisional assessment). For those undertaking costs budgeting there is an increase in the front-loading of work for claims that are still ongoing, with the potential reduction in work (no need for bills, detailed assessment, etc) at the end of the process yet to happen. Although a period of satellite litigation was to be expected by the new rules, the unexpected boost in work has come about as part of the Mitchell approach. My diary is rapidly filing up with hearings to deal with applications concerning: 1. Applications to strike out Points of Dispute due to a failure to serve an open offer. (These misconceived applications are dropping off.) 2. Applications for relief from sanctions for failing to provide proper notification of funding during the life of the claim. 3. Applications for relief from sanctions for failing to serve with the bill the correct documents in support of additional liabilities. (How many years do lawyers need to get this right?) 4. Applications for permission to serve Replies late. 5. Applications to strike out Replies served late. (If you need representation for any hearings in the London area, let me know.) This is not all good news for costs practitioners. Some of these applications are the result of costs draftsmen and costs lawyers failing to do what they should, when they should. Next year’s professional indemnity premiums are going to...

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Predicting the future

By on Apr 16, 2014 | 3 comments

Implementation of the Jackson reforms was predicted by many to mean a dramatic drop in claim numbers. The Access to Justice Action Group predicted “there will be at least 25% fewer claimants”. Many scoffed at the idea the reforms would lead to a reduction in motor premiums. To date there has apparently been no reduction in the number of new claims being notified or issued. The number of complex commercial litigation cases in the courts surged by 16% last year. News emerges comprehensive motor insurance prices have fallen by around 19% in the last year. We can no doubt expect a flurry of apologies for inaccurate...

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Amending a bill of costs

By on Apr 14, 2014 | 3 comments

PD 47 para.13.10 allows a party to vary their bill: “(1) If a party wishes to vary that party’s bill of costs, points of dispute or a reply, an amended or supplementary document must be filed with the court and copies of it must be served on all other relevant parties. (2) Permission is not required to vary a bill of costs, points of dispute or a reply but the court may disallow the variation or permit it only upon conditions, including conditions as to the payment of any costs caused or wasted by the variation.” It is in the court’s discretion as to whether to disallow the variation. For a case proceeding to a detailed assessment hearing this is straightforward enough. The court can rule on this issue, if it is contentious, at the start of the hearing. But what about a case going to provisional assessment? Does that require an application is advance of the provisional assessment, despite permission not being required to make the variation itself? Will the court even know there has been a variation if only the amended bill is filed with the...

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Costs Management White Paper

By on Apr 11, 2014 | 4 comments

The Association of Costs Lawyers has published an excellent White Paper on the First Year of Costs Management. Unfortunately, it repeats the myth that costs budgeting means Costs Lawyers are the “quantity surveyors of the litigation world”. When a quantity survey puts a price on constructing a building, he knows the precise shape and size of the planned building. Give of take a margin of error of a few millimetres, at most, the end building should follow the exact measurements given in the architect’s plans. Working out the number of bricks required, sacks of cement, etc, is a scientific process. Quantity surveyors do not face the problem of not being sure whether the end building will be a bungalow, a skyscraper or a half finished flat. There are going to be some very upset Costs Lawyer clients if they buy into this quantity surveyor...

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Jackson Reforms – One Year On

By on Apr 9, 2014 | 8 comments

Now that we are a year into the Jackson Reforms, where do we find ourselves? Strangely, not as far forward as we might have expected. A combination of the staggered introduction and transitional provisions to the extended Portals (not actually a Jackson reform, but the extension of fixed fees was a Jackson proposal) mean the impact on these claims has yet to be fully felt. Nevertheless, the next 6-12 months will see a significant reduction in costs work in an area that is the bread and butter of many costs practitioners. The impact of the introduction of provisional assessment has also yet to be fully felt with the transitional provisions stills seeing some lower value costs claims in the system. Although I undertake only a relatively small amount of advocacy at detailed assessment on an agency basis, I know there are some practitioners who undertake a significant amount of such work. They will acutely feel the loss of this work. Additionally, for those larger costs firms that have dedicated advocates for detailed assessments, the end to assessment for bills under £75,000 will have a major impact for work levels. Whether the provisional assessment scheme will ultimately be judged a success depends on whether the judiciary get a proper grip of the process. Early signs are not great. Other than the odd judicial comment, we still have no real clue as to how the new proportionality test will be applied. Although this is no big surprise in relation to detailed assessment, because of the transitional provisions, we would have expected something to emerge from the costs budgeting process. Why no decision yet along the lines of: “I would have approved budgets of £100,000 given the complexity of the issues but I note the value of the claim is only £25,000 and I will therefore limit each party’s budgets to that amount”. Costs budgeting is in serious danger of turning into a disaster. More judicial training is urgently needed to introduce some consistency in approach and to ensure judges understand the rules. The big problem is judges uncoupling costs management from case management. (More on this another day.) Work on the new bill of costs format continues. All bills to be...

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