Costs in Small Claims – Unreasonable Conduct leads to an award far in excess of fixed costs Reed v Boswell [2022]

 

 

This case concerned a claim for deceit resulting in damages and loss to the Claimant and was brought as a small claim with damages sought just below £9,000. The Claimant was a criminal solicitor and brought the claim as a litigant in person. The Claimant’s claim failed with DJ Lumb concluding;

 

“…the claim was misconceived and unclear. …and there were aspects of the quantum of damages claimed that were also inconsistent, unsupported and on the face of it, not losses that were sustained by the Claimant herself”

 

Whilst fixed costs are the usual outcome in small claims matters, the Defendant made an application under CPR 27.14(2)(g) for the court to award;

 

(g) such further costs as the court may assess by the summary procedure and order to be paid by a party who has behaved unreasonably.

 

If successful, a costs order can be granted in respect of those costs incurred as a direct result of the party’s unreasonable behaviour. DJ Lumb found that the Claimant had acted unreasonably and that conduct resulted in increased costs within the litigation. As a result, a costs award of £17,500 was made. A substantial increase on the usual court fee costs.

 

The lesson here? Ensure that you have a solid case when issuing a small claims; the usual rules with regard to costs may not protect you if the claim you make is unsubstantiated and your actions are considered unreasonable.

 

 

 

 

Challenging the shortfall of costs between solicitor and client – a failure to identify specific challenges to entries in a Bill of Costs may result in costs being disallowed O’Sullivan v Holmes and Hills LLP [2023] EWHC 508 (KB)

 

The Claimant was a client of the defendant in a personal injury claim where they received damages in the sum of £80,000. The costs of their solicitor (the Defendant) totalled just under £67,000. Once costs were recovered from the paying party, a shortfall of £21,917.30 remained, with the Defendant seeking £17,082.09 from the Claimant – the Claimant requested a detailed assessment of these costs.

 

Following service of the bill, usual directions (amongst others) were made, and a provisional assessment proceeded in May 2022. Following the assessment, the Defendant sought to appeal two disputed items within the Points of Dispute (POD’s)– the Judge found in favour of the Claimant again, the Defendant sought to appeal on several grounds, but in the main for the mis-application of Ainsworth v Stewarts Law LLP [2020] EWCA Civ 178  and non-compliance with CPR 47 PD 8.2.

 

The appeal was successful with HHJ Gosnell finding that the relevant POD’s “failed to adequately set out the nature and grounds of the dispute” and also highlighted that the Claimant had had plenty of opportunity to amend their POD’s to “satisfy the test in CPR 47 PD par 8.2 but he chose not to so thus presenting the rather start choice which the District Judge had to make.”

 

This case adds further support to the requirement for parties to not only outline clear and concise disputes to items in bills of costs, but also to specific entries they wish to challenge.

 

 

 

Responses to the QOCS Consultation – March 2023

 

The Ministry of Justice has published a response paper to the 2022 Consultation relating to the QOCS regime; in total 33 responses were received, with 20 supporting the changes, and 13 against. However, those for the changes do raise concern re “set-off and Part 36 offers [proposing] further amendment to the rules to address this point”, whilst those against concerned generally with reducing access to justice, financial risk falling on the solicitor and difficulty funding litigation going forward, with further comment that “there is no evidence that this is a problem that needs addressing.”.

 

The intention moving forward is that changes will continue to be implemented, however with some amendments and updates to the CPR considering the original intention of QOCS and to ensure balance.

 

A link to the response paper published by Gov.uk can be accessed here cprc-qocs-consultation-response.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk)

 

 

 

Updates to the OPG Deputy Standards – Published 13 February 2023

 

Updates have been made to the standards expected of professional, lay and Public Authority Deputies applying to either/both health and welfare and property and financial affairs deputyships. The assessment of the standards will be made against the annual report and assurance visits with greater expectations imposed, naturally, on the Public Authority and professional deputies.

 

Where a deputy fails to meet the updated standards, corrective measures will be put in place, or in serious breaches, an application to discharge the deputy may be required. A summary of the obligations of all deputies has been published by the OPG OPG Deputy Standards.

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For any costs advice please contact the office to speak to one of our experts, or contact Kate Benn at kate@rcostings.co.uk 01480 220808

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