Bloody provisional assessments

And another thing…


Many judges make the average doctor’s handwriting look as though it was the winning entry to a calligraphy competition. They try to write their decisions to the provisional assessment in boxes which have been left smaller than a postage stamp by the receiving party. The decision is written in light green ink (or perhaps invisible ink) that does not photocopy properly in the copies returned to the parties. The court staff photocopying the Points of Dispute/Replies/Decision fail to notice that the part of the page with the judge’s decisions has not copied properly or that the document is double-sided.


When the parties are advised of the date of the provisional assessment (6-9 months in the future), the receiving party is to email a copy of the Points of Dispute/Replies, in Word format, to the court. The judge’s decisions are typed into the Points of Dispute/Replies.

Even the courts’ creaking technology must be able to cope with this.

13 thoughts on “Bloody provisional assessments

  1. I was whinging about this very issue two days ago whilst trying to establish if a 30% or 80% success fee had been awarded. I eventually managed to find a handwritten 3 elsewhere to determine it must be 80% and that the 8 just wasn’t joined up properly! I still do not know what the rest of the writing says but I know I won.

    Have you noticed that some judges write on the points of dispute (which is where it should be done), some on the bill and some on both. I’ve even had one where a master at the SCCO determines that the replies were unecessary and made an award for assessment costs on the back page of the bill before we have even done the arithmatic, did he open the envelope with offers before the provisional assessment is concluded?!

  2. This is something I too have had issues with and actually think the solution you have suggested is both practical and sensible.

    I’ve also seen issues with CPR PD 47 whereby some Costs Judges seem not to be aware that not responding to a point is not conceding it!

    I’m starting to think that getting Costs Lawyers to carry out assessments would be both quicker and deliver more consistent assessments.

  3. A District Judge. Typing. Right, there’s the average PA hearing time doubled, and waiting time trebled

  4. All leads to one thing, a master plan by the government. Wind everyone up and then introduce fixed costs for everything! Job done. Complete mess. A little more thought to the whole process by all concerned would certainly iron out these problems and no doubt speed up the whole process.

    I see there is talk of court fees going up again! how about getting more court staff and try answering the phones!! The procedure is all flawed and takes way too long. The Rule makers have created more rules/protocols on costs than any other Rule in the CPR. Then they talk about proportionality – they created the problem by creating a disproportionate amount of Rules to govern costs recovery. There was nothing wrong with the old Scale 1 etc – should have left well alone in my view. Hey but am just a Costs Lawyer having dealt with this nonsense for 30 years!!

  5. Leicester County Court is ahead of the curve, the DJ carrying out the PA already print the responses on a separate form. My biggest bugbear is court staff not bothering to send out the Bill / pleadings / DJ findings and just sending out the order and/or just sending the order to the receiving party; contrary to the rules.

  6. Leeds County Court

    2 x rta issued passenger cases ran separately. Exactly the same cases in terms of conduct, damages and time spent.

    We request provisional assessment individually therefore 2 x £325.00 court fees.

    One Judge awards c. 4 hours document time on one of the cases.
    Another Judge in the same Court awards c. 12 hours on the other case.

    How on earth do you possibly advise your client on future cases?! Provisional assessments are a complete lottery!

  7. @ asda boy
    serves you right for trying to run 2 separate PA’s on 2 completely linked claims with overlapped and common costs. Same comment applies to your client. Wouldn’t surprise me if the 2 DJ’s had spoken having noted the commonality, and you got 4 hours as the “balance” of added work needed.

    In any event, your advice to your client should have been don’t double the costs to start with, you didn’t do the work anyway, your case management system did

  8. Serves me right? We beat both offers and I personally walked away with c. £2,750 plus vat for drafting 2 bills, 2 replies and 2 bundles for PA!

    We will all have found memories of the gravy train!

  9. @ asda boy

    thank you for clarifying your motives for so promoting two duplicate processes. I do hope members of the Judiciary whom read this blog, will take note. Of course , it is this type of conduct in promoting a “gravy train”, which have seen the new rules introduction, to derail said “train”. Well done you!

  10. Why not just go one step further and have all costs proceedings under £75,000 also issued via MCOL? Bill uploaded to MCOL and Paper Bill served with Password and Court Claim Number and Points/Replies input into a Prec G form online and submitted to the Court. If Points/Replies not input within 21 days without extension MCOL marks file as party not having complied. Costs Officer assesses Bill and decisions put on MCOL. Perhaps even allow Costs Officer to deduct items from the Bill and have the bill automatically recalculated?

  11. Showing your age Gary re Scale 1 but how many of your scale 1 bills had ‘discretion sought’ slapped on the front – all of them probably.

    A little organisation from the court would clearly assist. I’ve had an assessment of the costs of assessment notice through without the assessed bill/replies etc, and one the other day had pages missing. This saves hours trying to recalculate the bill and hours haggling.

    That said, yesterday’s order came fully typed, clear and concise and 2 mins later, the bill was recalculated.

  12. Bolton Cty Crt always ask for Precedent G to be sent 7 days in advance electronically and the DJ’s decisions come back typed – also get a decent explanation for the DJ’s findings on preliminary points e.g. we won on a couple of cases where pp argued small claims should apply. Dj found in our favour but produced a decent typed note in addition why found in our favour. The only thing with Bolton though is that you have to issue an application if want to raise argument over assessment costs which seems to contradict the rules.

  13. Gary S hits the nail on the head, if the judiciary read this blog they must be chuckling thinking that the masterplan worked!

    We all blame the rule makers, personally I think we are where we are because of the rule breakers. greedy lawyers, greedy counsel, greedy referral companies, greedy ate providers and greedy medical agencies.

    There is a train but theres no gravy left, what are we going to do? continue to squabble and take the gamble on provisional where it is clear the pleadings are not properly considered or we going to come together as a costs profession and agree something reasonable for instance costs mediation? only we can save us!

    The Courts will take note once certain costs firms stop issuing interlocutory apps and part 8 proceedings more times a week than the weather changes. Ooooh amn i suggesting that the Courts are driven by money and fee income nowadays and not justice, you bet your last pink ribbon on Counsel’s Brief i am.

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