The High Court has ordered that a claim be costs budgeted despite the case involving a child and likely to be worth more than £10m.

Master Brown acknowledged there were good reasons to exempt children’s claims from automatic costs management because of so many unknown factors, but in this case the costs already incurred were ‘at the very least concerning’ and that was the more significant factor.

He said that costs budgeting was not an expensive exercise but it did prevent costs from becoming excessive and disproportionate, reduce the requirement for detailed assessment later and enhance the chances of a settlement.

In PXT v (A Child by her Mother and Litigation Friend) the court heard that the claimant was 11 when she suffered a brain injury in a road accident in 2021. Liability was agreed at 85/15 in the claimant’s favour. Interim payments have been agreed for £1.025m but the whole claim is likely to be worth more than £10m.

In accordance with an order last year, the claimant’s solicitors claimed for £253,000 in incurred costs and put future costs (up to the next case management hearing) at £185,000. A revised bill of costs now puts total costs to date at £850,000 and costs up to the next CMC of £262,000.

The claimant’s solicitors, London firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said the work had been significantly more than was expected, particularly in gathering witness evidence and dealing with the client’s deteriorating mental health. They argued that the ‘underlying rationale’ was that cases involving a child were exempt from automatic costs budgeting, based in part on the decision in CXS v Maidstone and Tunbridge Well NHS Trust.

Master Brown said in PXT that while costs budgets may prove inaccurate when the child’s condition could change, there was no complete exemption from costs budgeting and in this case prognosis could be made as early as 2026. He suggested a costs budget should be a ‘straightforward exercise’ for the claimant and those preparing it should be familiar with the procedure.

Brown stated there was a ‘real apprehension’ that costs in the case could go substantially beyond what was reasonable or proportionate. ‘There is clearly substance to the concerns raised by the defendant about both the extent of the departure from the earlier estimates/costs information and the level of costs generally,’ he added. ‘Ordinarily I would expect that at least in the great many cases estimates can be expected to provide reassurance that costs are likely, within a range, to be reasonable and proportionate, but that is not the case here.’

In the recent costs statements the rate for Grade A work in 2024 was put at £560 per hour; for the Grade B £490, the grade C (2 -4 years qualified) £395 per hour, and the paralegal £210.

The judge did not accept that the fees claimed were the ‘going rates’ for this work, nor the claimant firm’s suggestion that it enjoyed a pre-eminent position in the serious injury market which would justify higher rates. He added there was ‘real concern’ that the partner in particular was ‘stepping outside of the appropriate areas of work of a litigation solicitor’ and into managing the case manager and treating team.


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