The Civil Procedure Rule Committee is to set new deadlines for filing budgets, according to documents circulated today.
The same papers also reveal that the Department of Health has engaged legal economics expert Professor Paul Fenn to consider the fixed-costs structure to be used for clinical negligence disputes.
According to minutes of the CPRC’s November meeting, sent out today, the committee has agreed to amend the timeframe for filing and service of budgets. Budgets for a claim worth less than £50,000 will need to be filed with the directions questionnaire, while those for higher-value claims will need to be filed 21 days before the case management conference. The current requirement is for all budgets to be filed seven days for the CMC.
The changes form part of a suite of minor reforms to budgeting proposed by a CPRC subcommittee chaired by Mr Justice Coulson during the summer. The amendments are currently being incorporated into a revised set of rules. No set timeframe has been given for their implementation.
The committee also discussed precedent H, and whether ‘assumptions’ should be included in the short version of the form. It was agreed that these should be included, as long as this did not increase the complexity and length of the form.
However, the judge who approves the costs budget will not have to say what assumptions they accepted. While this would be useful for the judge conducting detailed assessment at the end of the case, the CPRC decided it would ‘place an unduly heavy burden on the case management judge’.
In a progress report on the CPRC’s work on fixed costs in clinical negligence claims, it was revealed that the Department of Health has engaged legal services economics expert Professor Paul Fenn ‘to consider the fixed-costs structure’.
Fenn carried out extensive research in 2012 for the introduction of fixed costs in low-value road traffic accident claims, although his figures were later reduced by government to take account of the ban on payment of referral fees.
A DoH representative added that ‘the department’s own panel of lawyers [will] be carefully examining the steps in the existing process so that appropriate cost scales can be determined’.
The CPRC discussed a number of points covering how the rules would operate for clinical disputes, including possible exit points and exemptions from the scheme. The committee agreed that it would be helpful to provide draft rules within the government’s consultation, so that practitioners can see the detail of the rules.
It advised that a ‘full and wide-ranging consultation’ by the DoH at this stage would ‘safeguard against the necessity for a further consultation when the rules were developed by the subcommittee’.
Last July, the government asked the CPRC to look at redrafting the Civil Procedure Rules to introduce fixed recoverable costs in clinical disputes for lower-value claims. The intention was for this to apply to all cases up to £100,000, but it was ‘exploring whether to consult on a limit of £250,000’.
In response to a parliamentary question last month, health minister Ben Gummer said the government had delayed its consultation on the issue until ‘early 2016, subject to relevant committee clearances’.