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Lord Justice Jackson’s Preliminary Report on Civil Litigation Costs (see previous post) seriously considers whether the current two-way costs shifting rules should continue. He writes: “The first possible modification would be to introduce one-way cost shifting. One-way cost shifting means that when the defendant loses, he pays the claimant’s costs; when the claimant loses, each side bears its own costs. Such a system would self-evidently benefit claimants. Ironically, such a system would also benefit defendants in certain areas. A one-way cost shifting regime would be cheaper for defendants than a regime under which they recover costs when they win, but pay ATE premiums (as well as all the other costs) when they lose. A crucial consideration, however, would be the need to provide incentives for claimants to accept reasonable offers”.
The Report goes on: “On looking at the data which has come in during Phase 1 of the Costs Review, it seems to me that a one-way costs shifting rule would (a) be cheaper for defendants than the present two-way rule and (b) reduce the burden on claimants. It is therefore necessary to look at this proposal and its implications in further detail. The proposal which I raise for consideration during Phase 2 is whether it would be more cost effective to remove the claimant’s liability for costs in respect of unsuccessful cases. … Whilst there are different arguments for cost shifting for and against claimants, it is appears that in most categories of litigation the case for retaining cost shifting in favour of successful claimants is a strong one. My working assumption is, therefore, that cost shifting in favour of claimants, in the sense that successful claimants should generally expect to recover their costs, should continue”.
Michael Zander QC, writing in the New Law Journal, stated: “If I were a betting man I would put some money on there being a recommendation in the final report that in personal injury litigation we should move to one-way fee shifting (as existed under legal aid) so that the claimant would no longer need, and losing defendants would no longer have to, pay for the claimant’s ATE insurance cover”.These suggestions would have a major impact on two groups if they find their way into the rules. Firstly there would be a significant reduction in work for costs draftsmen, both defendant and claimant. If one-way costs shifting removed recoverability of defendants’ costs this would remove the need for defendants’ bills of costs to be drafted or opposed. Of course, defendants do not win a high proportion of cases but this loss of work would not be insignificant. The second group who would be affected is ATE insurers. I will deal with them in a future post.
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