Solicitors for a clinical negligence claimant are entitled to recover their entire costs budget even where the case has settled early, a court has ruled.

District Judge Lumb, sitting at Birmingham Civil and Family Justice Centre, said ‘very clear evidence of overspending’ in a particular phase would be required before the court could even consider departing from the approved budget.

The defendant in the case had sought to have costs reduced on the basis that not every phase budgeted for had been completed.

The ruling in Chapman v Norfolk and Norwich UH NHSFT provides a counter to recent cases where a court has found a good reason to depart, and reminds litigators of the high bar judges will set for making retrospective changes.

Lumb said that once set, it was open to the party who had set their budget to spend that phase how they wish. The costs management judge did not need to give a breakdown of disbursements, profits costs or counsel fees, but simply arrive at a figure which was reasonable and proportionate.

The judge said he would be sacrificing one of the principal purposes of costs budgeting – namely the certainty for all parties – if he reduced costs in Chapman.

He added there was nothing in the case that showed a substantial overspending on work done in the experts and ADR phases, even though the expert phase was not completed.

‘Any suggestion otherwise would be tantamount to an allegation of fraud and serious professional misconduct of wrongful certification of a bill,’ said Lumb.

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