Lord Justice Jackson has stated that the costs provisional assessment scheme is ready to go national after a year-long pilot.
District judges in three county courts were required to assess on paper any bill of costs in which the base costs claimed were £25,000 or less. Jackson, who recommended the pilot as part of his costs review in 2010, said the scheme had cut costs and court time and increased fee income for the courts.
The average time spent on each provisional assessment was 37 minutes, with the district judges estimating that the parties saved at least £4,000 per case. He concluded that provisional assessment should be incorporated into the Civil Procedure Rules and become part of the service provided at all civil court centres for bills up to £25,000.
Jackson said: ‘The process is quick and simple. It thus enables many parties who would normally be put off by the expensive and convoluted process of detailed assessment to obtain a judicial assessment of bills.’
If the Rule Committee approves the plan, court staff and district judges should receive immediate training before the procedure is introduced, Jackson recommends. Work will also begin to develop a self-calculating facility to help the process of provisional assessment for judges and both parties.
The pilot, based on principles used in Hong Kong since 2009, began at Leeds, Scarborough and York in October 2010. If either party was dissatisfied with the written assessment of costs, they could request an oral hearing. If that party achieved a result at the oral hearing which was better by at least 20% of the assessment, it could recover costs, but failure to achieve that degree of success meant it paid the costs of the hearing.
A total of 119 cases went through the pilot, mostly personal injury claims, with 16% settled early and 84% going to provisional assessment.