Detailed assessment of costs in cases subject to costs budgeting

Wright v Sherlock Interiors Contracting Limited, SCCO, Master O’Hare, 19/8/15

David White appeared for the paying party at a detailed assessment in the SCCO in what is believed to be one of the first detailed assessments of costs relating to a case subjected to costs budgeting.

The case offered an insight into how a costs budget “bites” on the assessment of costs at the conclusion of the claim.

The underlying claim was a personal injury claim that had settled for a substantial sum by way of acceptance of a Part 36 Offer.

The assessment was carried out by Master O’Hare and the costs budget had been set by Master Leslie.

The approach that Master O’Hare took was to determine appropriate hourly rates, and then assess pre-Budget costs on the basis of what was “proportionately and reasonably incurred” (44.4 CPR).

In respect of the post-Budget costs (“estimated costs” on the Budget), in respect of each phase the Master took the following approach:-

1. Identified the figure that Master Leslie had allowed for each phase
2. Applied the assessed hourly rates to the costs claimed for each phase (which reduced the figures for each phase)
3. Compared the figure now being claimed for that phase (excluding vat, success fees and court fees) with what had been allowed by Master Leslie for “estimated costs” at the CCMC
4. If the figure claimed was lower than the budgeted figure for the phase, allowed that figure unless he was persuaded by the paying party that there was a “good reason” to allow a lower figure (3.18 CPR)
5. If the figure claimed was higher than the budgeted figure, allowed the budgeted figure unless he was persuaded by the receiving party that there was a “good reason” to allow a higher figure (3.18 CPR)

There was argument as to the appropriate phase for some of the costs, as not every item of work neatly fitted into one of the ten phases
The effect of the costs budget was to speed up the assessment process considerably in respect of the post-Budget costs, as detailed consideration of the reasonableness of time claimed for attendances and work on documents was avoided

On the facts of the case the paying party (represented by David White) bettered their Part 36 Offer and were entitled to their costs post-dating the offer