A claimant whose budget failed to account for the trial phase has been told he was in breach of civil procedure rules.
Mr Justice Walker, sitting in the High Court (Queen’s Bench Division), said it was clear the claimant’s interim budget did not meet the requirements of Precedent H to set out the costs of the whole litigation.
The parties in Page v RGC Restaurants Ltd had agreed all directions and costs budget figures for phases up to and including a proposed second case management conference. The claimant had worked on the basis that trial costs would be decided then, but Master Thornett ruled in December that he had effectively not filed an entire budget within the meaning of the rules. The costs judge therefore imposed a sanction which limited the claimant’s costs budget to applicable court fees only.
Walker J rejected one aspect of Page’s appeal, namely that the sanctions were too harsh because he had substantially complied with directions previously, and there was no ‘ineptness or disregard’ of the rules.
The judge made clear that in relation to the phases of trial and trial preparation, there had been no compliance with the rules.
He added: ‘I accept there was a professional genuine judgment, but I cannot accept that there was a lack of ineptness, for to my mind the requirements in the rule and the practice direction were clear.’
But the judge did allow the claimant the costs that had already been agreed, stating that the course taken was wrong, but not deliberately wrong.
Walker J said Page’s advisers genuinely considered that a second case management conference was needed for the claim and mistakenly thought it appropriate to file a budget which left over the trial and trial preparation phase.
‘Looking at the matter in the round, it seems to me that there was a clear distinction between what happened in relation to the phases of trial and preparation for trial, and what happened in relation to the earlier phases,’ added the judge.
With such a clear dividing line between compliant and non-compliant actions, Walker J said it was possible to decide which sanctions would be unjust and which would not.
Budgeted costs as agreed before December were allowed, with costs for subsequent phases limited to any applicable court fees.