Claimant lawyers have hailed the first written judgment ordering an interim costs payment as welcome news for clients and the wider legal profession.
Sitting at Liverpool County Court, district judge John Baldwin agreed an interim payment of £7,780 – around 55% of the costs bill based on rules amended in 2013.
North-west firm Fletchers Solicitors had brought a clinical negligence claim for damages in Travers v Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and settled the case at £1,500, on the basis that the defendant paid the claimant’s reasonable costs and disbursements.
Fletchers stressed the court should remind itself of the April 2013 amendment to the old interim payment rule, which changed the emphasis from a discretionary ‘may order’ to a qualified mandatory ‘will order unless’.
The claimant firm said it wanted guidance and clarification from the court in the context of frustration that defendants seek to ‘throw any obstacle in the way of any early payment of any part of an "in principle" admitted costs liability’.
The ruling from Baldwin was the first written judgment since the new rules came into practice and Fletchers said it was a ‘major victory’ for claimants and the claimant sector alike.
The firm said the case is now expected to be used throughout the sector, with future claimants likely to use the ruling to back their request for interim payments.
In future, it added, defendants wanting to challenge a request will now have to present a valid reason as to why the request is unreasonable, shifting the burden from the claimant.
Benjamin Moody (pictured), advocacy manager for Fletchers Solicitors’ in-house costs company, Ultimate Costs, said: ‘Interim payments are extremely valuable when it comes to bringing a case to final settlement. The process can often take a significant time to conclude and interim payments serve to speed up the process.
‘For too long, defendants have strenuously objected to providing interim payments, putting off that dreaded day when costs must be paid. The court has now sent a very clear message that the rule change is to be interpreted in the claimant’s favour.’