A costs judge has refused to pare a defendant’s costs after finding she should not have to bear the consequences of the claimant’s conduct.
Master Leonard said the court should not judge proportionality only by reference to a notional financial value of the claim, and should consider the wider factors as set out in civil procedure rules.
In Arjomandkhah v Nasrouallahi, the court had dismissed the claimant’s application for a final injunction against the defendant. The two had been in a close relationship until 2015. The claimant, described as a wealthy and powerful individual, alleged that the defendant, a student, had told a mutual acquaintance she would make lurid allegations against him and share explicit pictures with his wife and children. She denied ever demanding money or making any of the threats alleged by him.
District Judge Price had dismissed the claim in June 2017, discharged the interim injunction and ordered the claimant to pay the defendant’s costs of almost £20,000.
Following an appeal, Master Leonard, sitting in the Senior Courts Costs Office, said it would be wrong to disallow her costs. He accepted that where there was any doubt as to whether costs were proportionately incurred, the claimant would benefit. But despite the claim having a notional value of between £3,000 and £5,000, the defendant’s costs were deemed proportionate.
The court heard the claimant’s lawyers argue that his own disproportionate approach did not necessarily justify the same approach from the defendant. He had taken the word of the mutual acquaintance, it was argued, and should not be obliged to pay disproportionate costs.
But Master Leonard stressed the consequences of losing the case stretched further for the defendant than any injunction: she stood to go on record as a ruthless and sleazy blackmailer. In this context her outlay on costs was proportionate.
She should not have to ‘bear the consequences’ of the claimant’s approach, said the judge, and her solicitor had no choice other than to carefully consider the evidence he produced.
Master Leonard said it would ‘not be right’ for the defendant to be left with a debt to her solicitors she could not pay, and the claimant’s argument offended the ‘equal footing’ principle embodied in the overriding objective.
The judge said she was ‘fully entitled’ to proceed on the basis that the very serious allegations made against her must be either disproved or withdrawn. He added it was not unreasonable for her to reject the offer of mediation, given she would have to contribute half the cost.