Tag Archives: Conditional fee agreement

On 16 February 2012 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Adrian Simcoe v Jacuzzi UK Group Plc [2012] EWCA Civ 137

This judgment confirmed that interest on costs is recoverable from the date that the court awards costs / date of agreement to pay costs and not, as the Defendant argued, from the date that costs are assessed.

The case notes that such interest is mandatory in County Court cases, as pre-CPR statute removes any judicial discretion, but that the High Court may look at all factors when deciding interest.

The judgment is based upon the general rule that interest is recoverable from the date that costs are awarded. There is no reason to alter the position purely because the Claimant is funded by a CFA and may not have paid out costs during the litigation.

As this entitlement to interest is now mandatory in most CFA–funded cases, Claimant’s should calculate interest on every claim for costs and set this out as a separate figure.

The only exception is where costs and damages total less than £5,000.00. Here interest cannot be claimed as only recoveries above this sum are covered by statute.

In light of the judgment, Claimant’s should reconsider all recent offers to meet costs in CFA cases; are these offers inclusive of exclusive of interest? Does the recovery of interest alter the attractiveness of such offers?

Nova Costs will be happy to advise upon any issues arising out of this judgment to maximise your costs recovery.


If you would like to speak to one of our costs experts please call us today on 0161 276 2000 or email us at info@novacosts.com

It has been 3 months since the Court of Appeal decision in Motto v Trafigura Limited [2011] EWCA Civ 1150. The case has determined some important areas of costs law but appears to have limited impact on day to day negotiations and the content of bills of costs. It is certainly not the bullet to costs recovery that some aspects of the judgment were feared to be.

The case has been hailed as a blow for claimant solicitors as the court emphasised that the monetary disparity between damages and the costs was one of the most important factors when analysing proportionality under the Home Office v Lownds test. Where there is a finding of disproportionality the costs judge must assess each item in the bill, and is not limited by the points of dispute. So, proportionality arguments now have extra weight at court, especially in relation to complex and high value claims.

The big issue for claimants is how this translates into practice: will proportionality be more readily applied by courts? Will claimants be faced with the onerous task of justifying every item in their bill at detailed assessment? The answer is no. Whilst Motto v Trafigura may find its way into every set of points of dispute that raise proportionality we predict that this will be of limited effect in court; firstly because it is still evident that a judge must look at all the facts of a case when ruling on the issue and secondly because very few judges will wish to spend already stretched court time considering every item in a bill of costs to determine whether it was necessarily incurred. Indeed, we would positively recommend emphasising the consequence of the test at detailed assessment if a judge appears to be erring upon the side of the defendant.

Of more significance for claimants was the decision on all funding costs, which the court concluded cannot be recovered from the paying party. This will have a considerable impact upon claims for costs, especially in cases where funding has been difficult to obtain, or where insurers apply stringent reporting requirements.

However, the court did allow “vetting costs”. Despite this, paying parties will argue that all costs incurred before the CFA should be disallowed as funding costs. This is nonsense and we always counter on the basis that appreciable and recoverable work has been undertaken at this time. There is a fine line between the costs associated with “vetting” a case and those devoted to organising funding. We therefore advocate including all reasonably incurred costs within the bill and letting the court adjudicate upon the issue.

Finally, the Court of Appeal looked at costs associated with abandoned claims. This is an area often attacked by defendants as non-recoverable work. However, the court confirmed that associated costs will be recoverable where it was reasonable to investigate, plead and pursue the claim. Solicitors generally do not waste time pursing claims that are unreasonable and without purpose and most abandoned investigations will be relevant to the successful action. We therefore recommend that the costs associated with such claims are maintained.

As you can see, the legal landscape is slightly clearer since the judgment but the effect is not entirely in favour of either the paying or receiving party. Once again it appears to be business as usual!

If you would like to speak to one of our costs experts please call us today on 0161 276 2000 or email us at info@novacosts.com

Defendants are always thinking up new ways of attempting to argue out of paying reasonable costs at the conclusion of litigation.

The latest attack is upon any and all claims for costs where damages were finally agreed below the small claims track threshold. So, how do Claimants resist this latest challenge?

It has long been established that a Court will limit costs to the small claims track (or any other appropriate fixed costs regime) if a claim has been purposefully overvalued, pleaded on the basis of obviously incorrect information or where a Claimant has attempted to mislead (see Afzal v Ford Motor Co [1994] CA).

However, Defendants are using the recent case of Stuart Lisbie v SKS Scaffolding Ltd [2011] EWHC 90203 (costs) to extend this limitation to claims made in good faith, but which failed for whatever reason, to produce damages above the fixed costs threshold.

In this unlitigated RTA, costs were limited to the small claims track after contributory negligence reduced damages to under £1,000.00. The Court concluded that RTA fixed costs only apply if the amount of damages actually paid was above the small claim limit and that contributory negligence must be deducted before these damages are determined.

This case can be especially problematic when combined with O’Beirne v Hudson [2010] EWCA Civ 52, where the Court limited costs to those that would have been recovered on a fixed regime despite the Defendant agreeing to meet “reasonable costs on the Standard Basis” at the end of the main action. This was on the basis that “reasonable costs” cannot exceed those that would have been recovered had the correct regime been applied.

However, Nova Costs recommends that Claimants resist such challenges where damages were reasonably valued above the fixed costs threshold during the litigation and costs have been agreed on the Standard Basis.
The case of Lisbie was specifically decided by reference to the RTA fixed costs regime and so it should not be possible to argue for any wider application.

In any event, the decision of Master Gordon-Saker sitting as a Deputy District Judge appears to be at variance with the Court of Appeal judgement in Voice and Script International Ltd v Ashraf Alghfar [2003] EWCA Civ 736, which confirmed that costs would only be limited where the claim could not possibly have ever had a value above the applicable threshold. This decision was not considered in the case of Lisbie, which only concentrated upon the final damages agreed.

In order to strengthen the position, Claimants should be attempting to conclude damages settlements below £1,000.00 on the strict understanding that costs will be paid under the RTA fixed costs regime / Standard Basis assessment. If this is not possible then please contact Nova Costs, who will be happy to take these arguments forward.

If you would like to speak to one of our costs experts please call us today on 0161 276 2000 or email us at info@novacosts.com