A costs judge has rejected the option to reduce a claimant’s budget despite the case settling for much less than expected.
Master Rowley found no good reason in Jallow v Ministry of Defence to depart from the budget set previously by a costs management order in a claim against the British Army for cold injuries.
In doing so, he dismissed the defendant’s argument that the case had been budgeted when the claim was worth £300,000: the action was actually settled for £90,000 four weeks before the planned assessment of damages hearing.
The judge also rejected the defendant’s argument that his reduction in principle of some hourly rates constituted a good reason to depart from budgeted costs.
Rowley said the budgeted part of the bill had not been dealt with by a conventional detailed assessment, and so it was not open to the defendant to assume the total claim was unreasonable.
He said: ‘The court has to accept that the budgeted figures for taking the case to trial are reasonable and proportionate. Therefore, if the sums subsequently claimed in the bill are within that budget they are, on the face of it, also reasonable and proportionate. [Where] it can be assumed that much, if not all, of the work had been done within the various phases and the costs were still within budget, the presumption is all the stronger in my view that the costs incurred are reasonable and proportionate.’
Rowley said it was for the party and their solicitor to determine who does the work that needs to be done: where the costs overall are within the set budget, there could be no legitimate criticism in over the choice of solicitor. ‘If it comes within the budget that has been set, it will turn individually “unreasonable” items into a reasonable and proportionate sum overall,’ added Rowley.
The claimant, a Gambian national serving in the British Army, brought his case after sustaining non-freezing cold injuries to his hands and feet.
The claimant was represented by Sam Hayman of Bolt Burdon Kemp. Michelle Walton, instructed by costs lawyer Jessica Wilson, represented the defendant.