Dominic Regan, writing in Modern Law magazine, reports on the HH J Simon Brown’s recent judgment in the case of Safetynet Security LTD v Coppage (2012) EWHC B11. After giving judgment for the claimant it was decided that as the spend was within the court approved budget a detailed assessment would be an expensive and futile exercise. Accordingly, a final costs order was made within minutes of the substantive judgment being delivered and the claimant came away knowing that by the end of that month his costs would be due.
This raises three frightening issues:
1. Firstly, it highlights the importance of getting the budget right (and the potential exposure of those who get their budgets wrong).
2. Secondly, could the future be one where there is no need for Bills of Costs, Points of Dispute, Replies, cost negotiations or detailed assessment hearings? Those who believe that those who deal with just high-value cases will be immune from the Jackson reforms are mistaken.
3. Thirdly, if this becomes the future it may be bad news for paying parties. Cost budgeting is, at best, meant to be a rough and ready process. If a party manages to have approved a budget that is 10%-20% above what would be allowed through the process of detailed assessment and a trial judge then rubberstamps any costs that come in below the approved budget, paying parties may find themselves paying out significantly more than they might have expected to do if the costs had been subject to the detailed scrutiny of the current system.
On a more cheery note, Kerry Underwood recently predicted that with Jackson implementation we should “expect five years of litigation that will paralyze the Court of Appeal”.