The High Court has deducted a successful claimant 15% of their costs after he had exaggerated his case and strung out his hearing.
Mrs Justice Farbey made the costs order in Morrow v Shrewsbury Rugby Union Football Club after ruling that exaggeration and an inflated claim for damages were ‘built into the structure’ of Brian Morrow’s presentation of his claim.
The case raised questions about how the court should strike a balance in awarding costs for an inflated but not dishonest claim. The judge said the claimant’s conduct prolonged the trial and cross-examination of multiple witnesses. But in the context of a seven-day trial with numerous witnesses, Farbey said the overall costs were bound to be high enough that a 15% reduction would be meaningful.
The underlying case had been a claim by Morrow for an injury suffered while watching a rugby game. Liability was not disputed but the parties were ‘poles apart’ on quantum of damages.
Before the accident, Morrow had worked as an independent financial adviser and he claimed he was left unfit for work on physiological and/or psychological grounds. The defendant did not maintain that Morrow was dishonest but said his case was ‘misleading’, insisting he was still able to work and that his condition was affected by longer-term problems.
A short time before trial, the claimant made a Part 36 offer to accept £800,000, while the defendant had offered to settle for £110,000 at a much earlier stage. The court eventually awarded damages of around £286,000, including £58,000 in general damages.
The general rule is that the unsuccessful party will be ordered to pay the costs of the successful party, but in this case the defendant contested it because Morrow’s exaggerated account had taken up so much time.
The judge accepted that Morrow preferred to put forward an exaggerated case in court. The extent of the exaggeration was reflected in the gulf between the damages claimed and the damages awarded. The judge noted the defendant’s Part 36 offer proved too low but the their offer was significantly closer to the damages awarded than the claimant’s offer.