The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in March, 2015

Fixed success fees in disease claims

By on Mar 16, 2015 | 3 comments

The issue of what amounts to a “disease” for the purposes of the old fixed success fee regime rumbles on. Judgment has now been given by Mr Justice Phillips in Dalton v British Telecommunications plc ruling that noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims are “disease” claims for the purposes of the rules. This is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Permission to appeal is being sought. It needs to be understood why this matter was heard by a High Court judge given the claims were County Court matters. Both parties, and the Regional Costs Judge, had agreed that the issue had “Court of Appeal” written all over it and it would be preferable for the issue to be determined at High Court level. (There had already been a number of conflicting first instance decisions at County Court level.) With the matter heard by a High Court judge, that would finally decide the matter subject to any appeal that would move straight to the Court of Appeal. Watch this...

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Costs budget “slashed”

By on Mar 11, 2015 | 8 comments

The recent costs management case of CIP Properties (AIPT) Ltd v Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd & Ors (Costs No. 2) [2015] EWHC 481 (TCC) has been widely reported as an example of the court “slashing” the claimant’s excessive costs budget. By way of example, the claimant’s estimate sought a budget of £324,880 for drafting witness statements, being 880 hours at a Grade A rate of £370 per hour. As to hourly rates the judge had commented: “Although the claimant’s solicitors are based in Birmingham, they are claiming for a partner at a Grade A rate of £370 per hour. This is to be contrasted with the guideline Grade A rate for Birmingham of £217 per hour. I consider the £370 to be unreasonable.” The judge does not appear to have fixed an appropriate hourly rate when fixing the budgets but clearly considered this excessive. (Note the judge considered guideline rates to be an appropriate reference point for a claim being pursued for £18 million odd.) The judge further commented: “In addition, the claimant’s costs budget identifies vast swathes of hours worked/estimated to be done by the lead Grade A partner, with much less work being performed by junior lawyers. Having considered the written submissions on this issue, I consider that this is a specific cause of the unreasonable level of the claimant’s costs. The hourly rate is too high but more importantly, the claimant is using the Grade A partner for work which is inappropriate and could be done more cheaply by lower grade assistants.” As to the nature of the witness statements that would be required: “It appears that it is envisaged that the claimant will prepare witness statements from three people who dealt with the claimant’s acquisition of the property, a topic which is likely to be entirely uncontroversial. The budget also envisages multiple witness statements dealing with the remedial scheme. Those statements too are likely to be peripheral at best because the principal issues are going to be what defects emerged and whether the remedial scheme to deal with them was reasonable (which are matters for the experts), not what actually happened.” At this stage it is worth remembering the views of HH Judge Simon Brown...

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Defendants’ low costs budgets

By on Mar 10, 2015 | 8 comments

In the recent case of CIP Properties (AIPT) Ltd v Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd & Ors (Costs No. 2) [2015] EWHC 481 (TCC), Coulson J was dismissive of the suggestion a defendant might try to submit a knowingly low costs budget: “In his written submissions on behalf of the claimant, one of the points made … was that the court should not have any great regard to the costs budget figures put forward by the defendant and the additional parties because they had ‘an incentive’ to advance low figures in their costs budgets. This suggestion of manipulation of the figures by the other parties was, understandably, the subject of considerable protest. It seemed to me to be an unwarranted accusation. In truth, the party who was most vulnerable to such an accusation was the claimant itself.” Hopefully, this will be an end to similar suggestions made by claimants in other cases that defendants have any incentive to put forward artificially low figures in their budget. I would suggest that in the future, in the absence of very specific evidence to support the same, such a suggestion should be treated as being a serious professional conduct issue and adverse costs orders should be made against those advancing such arguments. The very idea that defendants would pitch their budgets low for tactical...

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The role of Costs Lawyers in costs budgeting

By on Mar 9, 2015 | 4 comments

Another member of the judiciary has come out in support of the importance of Costs Lawyers in the costs budgeting process. Master David Cook, speaking at a seminar at 7 Bedford Row chambers, was quoted as saying: “costs lawyers should be discouraged from attending budgeting hearings as they do not have the knowledge of the case to answer questions on spending to...

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Appropriate success fee where liability clear

By on Mar 3, 2015 | 11 comments

Press release from well known personal injury solicitors commenting on holiday illness claim, where solicitors were acting for 276 clients, quoting their head of travel law: “It is almost beyond belief that [the Defendant] has continued to deny liability for this terrible outbreak”. Success fee claimed for this clearly clear-cut claim: 100%. You couldn’t make it...

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