A claimant has failed in a High Court Mitchell bid to argue that an initial hearing amounted to a case management conference (CMC) and should be subject to budgeting rules.

The claimant in Kershaw v Roberts argued the defendant had missed the deadline by failing to submit a costs budget seven days before the 21 November hearing.

The claim over a £160,000 inheritance was issued in Taunton last September and the court subsequently sent out two notices to indicate a ‘directions hearing’ was to take place.

But claimant Ian Kershaw served by fax a budget for £63,000 on 14 November, forcing the defendants to respond with their own costs budget by post on 19 November.

The claimant then submitted that as the hearing was a CMC and the defendants had failed to serve their costs budget in time, their costs budget should be restricted to court fees only – a principle established by the Mitchell case in the Court of Appeal last year.

Sitting at Wrexham in January, Judge Philip Hughes found the Taunton hearing was not a CMC and therefore no obligation to file costs budgets then arose.

Over a one-day hearing this month in the High Court (Chancery Division), Naomi Candlin, instructed for the claimant by west country firm Slee Blackwell, said the defendant solicitors ‘should have known’ the hearing was to be a CMC and ‘simply failed to do so without any good reason’.

She argued that in a Part 8 claim there is no difference between a ‘directions hearing’ and a ‘case management conference’, which are ‘interchangeable’.

But Mr Justice Hickinbottom (pictured) dismissed this argument, saying the claim was not allocated to the multi-track until the district judge specifically allocated it at the Taunton hearing.

He added: ‘Consequently, that hearing itself was not – indeed could not have been – a CMC.

‘The notice of the hearing did not refer to it as a CMC; and it seems to me clear that the court, in sending out that notice, never intended the hearing to be a CMC.’

Indeed, Judge Hickinbottom pointed out that as the claimant’s costs budget was sent on the afternoon of 14 November, it too would have been considered late.

‘It appears that neither the claimant nor the defendants appreciated that point. Had the claimant done so, I suspect he would not have pursued this application to restrict the defendants’ costs budget with such enthusiasm, or indeed at all.’

The judge ordered that as arguments over the nature of the November hearing took up half of the four-hour hearing in January, the claimants must pay half of the defendants’ costs from the later hearing.