Pointers for the potential level of fixed costs for civil claims have been revealed on the eve of a pilot scheme to test how the idea will work.

Lord Justice Jackson is set to issue his final report next month on the capping of fixed recoverable costs for claims worth up to £250,000. He has previously proposed a trial period for assessing the scheme.

The Gazette understands that the idea was to begin the pilot in May, but the Ministry of Justice delayed it until after the election. The start is now assumed to be imminent. 

Lord Justice Jackson at Law Society

Lord Justice Jackson

Source: Michael Cross

Papers from the Civil Procedure Rule Committee meeting in May, published today, show costs in the pilot would be capped at £10,000 for pre-action work, £7,000 for particulars of claim and £7,000 for defence and counterclaim.

Parties can claim up to £6,000 for a reply and defence to the counterclaims, £6,000 for the case management conference, £6,000 for disclosure and £8,000 for witness statements. Expert reports are capped at £10,000, with the trial and judgment costs limited to £20,000.

The working group dedicated to the pilot scheme proposes an overall cap of £80,000 rather than setting an actual fixed amount at this stage.

The proposal, backed in principle by the committee, is to run the pilot in certain specialist civil courts: the London Mercantile Court and three courts in each of the Manchester District Registry and Leeds District Registry. Any cases where the trial will go beyond two days, or where the value is more than £250,000, are excluded.

The pilot will be open to new cases for two years and be monitored by academics. The papers reveal that Jackson is currently in discussions with Professor Andrew Francis and Nick Taylor of Leeds University’s School of Law.

It is common ground among members of the committee that there should be a streamlined court procedure. This is likely to be based on the rules around the Shorter Trial Scheme, but with small amendments. In terms of procedure, a list of issues will be reviewed at the claims management conference, including disclosure, limits on fact and expert evidence. Trial dates will be fixed within eight months of the CMC.

The scheme is voluntary and both sides must agree to take part, although parties should not have an ‘unfettered right’ to leave the scheme if they change their mind.

The defendant in the proposed scheme shall respond to the letter of claim within 14 days, while particulars of claim and defences with counterclaims must not exceed 20 pages. Other statements of case must not go beyond 15 pages.

Costs budgeting shall not apply to cases in the capped costs list, with the court instead making a summary assessment of costs.

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