The High Court has rejected a defendant’s plea that costs were too high for a holiday illness case lodged by 205 cruise ship passengers.
The claimants, represented by national firm Irwin Mitchell, had claimed after being taken ill on board, with settlements ranging from an average of £500 for those reclaiming the value of their holiday, to those more seriously ill paid at least £1,500 in damages.
Total costs claimed were £1.77m, with Master Howarth allowing costs of almost £1m at detailed assessment in December 2015.
Defendant TUI UK ltd, represented by London firm Miles Fanning, accepted the generic bill of £365,580 but appealed the Howarth’s decision to allow more than £630,000 in overall base costs.
In TUI UK Ltd v Tickell & Ors, the High Court heard the parties had agreed to run the risk of using a sampling method to calculate appropriate costs based on a handful of examples.
But the defendant nevertheless argued Howarth had failed to disallow unnecessary costs, allowed 144 hours of inter-fee discussions that were unnecessary, and assessed one of the sample claims on the wrong basis.
Sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division, the Honourable Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing DBE, said Howarth had rightly considered work on the case as a whole.
She said it was necessary from time to have discussions between fee earners, and highlighted that the parties had agreed the claimants should not go to the expense of producing attendance notes.
Laing also addressed the defendant’s complaint that claimants had not used the Association of British Travel Agents mediation process, although they insisted they had never been invited to do so.
Moreover, the claimants had offered to mediate but the defendant had not responded to that suggestion. Laing noted there was no obligation to use the ABTA scheme and said it was clear Howarth had taken into account alternative dispute resolution when deciding on costs.
The defendant also cited Howarth’s use of the phrase ‘I think I am happy’ when discussing the time taken over each case.
Laing responded: ‘The Master’s use of the formula ‘I think’ is no basis for a submission that the Master had a doubt about this item. ‘I have no doubt that if this experienced Master, who knew what test he had to apply, had had a doubt about this item, he would have (a) said so, and (b) disallowed it.’