The High Court has rejected a hospital trust’s attempt to reduce a claimant’s legal costs by citing mis-certification of the bill.
The defendant in Murray v Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust had applied to disallow in full the claimant’s costs of £182,212.
Deputy Master Campbell had ordered costs in favour of the claimant and that order was subsequently upheld following a hearing in the High Court last month. The underlying clinical negligence claim had settled for £175,000 in October 2016.
On appeal, Mr Justice Stewart noted that the defendant had counted five mis-certifications, which, considered cumulatively, amounted to unreasonable or improper conduct. In fact, however, the judge found only four mis-certifications – one of which, on the interim payment of costs, was ‘trifling’. The other three were not sufficient to require sanctions.
Stewart J said Deputy Master Campbell had been entitled to find the mis-certification was not deliberate. Neither was there anything to suggest that the claimant’s solicitors realised their errors prior to the detailed assessment hearing.
The judge said the Deputy Master was correct to say there was no error in the bill in asserting a 100% success fee.
The defendant also submitted that the after-the-event premium level of £50,000 to ensure a maximum cost liability of £11,000 was ‘completely disproportionate and unreasonable’. But the judge said: ‘This is not a case where the level of cover was too high; nor was it a summary assessment or a case where one could doubt the propriety of taking out ATE cover.’