piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Late amendments, strike outs, summary judgment & remote heads of loss

  The High Court has recently handed down judgment in Gonul Guney v Kingsley Napley & Anor [2016] EWHC 2349 (QB). This was a professional liability claim based on the Claimant's retainer of the Defendant solicitors, in respect of litigation concerning the estate of the Claimant’s father. It touches upon a number of issues of interest to those involved in a broad range of civil litigation.   Mrs Justice McGowan recited that in very simple terms that action is based on the Defendants' alleged negligence, it having been alleged that had she been properly advised the Claimant would have settled a claim brought by a third party at a much earlier date and thereby avoided liability for the Defendants' costs after that date as well as those of the said third party.   The court was faced with cross applications: By an application issued on 12 April 2016, the Defendant “applied for summary judgment against and/or to strike out of parts of the claim in relation to various heads of loss...” The Claimant “[a]s late as 31 August 2016... served an application for permission to re-amend the Particulars of Claim. By this new application she seeks to introduce two new aspects to the claim.”   The Claimant argued that the proposed amendments should not be regarded as truly late, as they would not cause the trial to be derailed, that the same would only have limited impact on the case, and turn on factual evidence from the Claimant and family members, and the same were necessary to ensure justice is done between the parties.   The Defendant diametrically-opposed submissions were that the proposed amendments were both fundamental and too late. In addition, they submit that there are entirely at odds with the pleaded case.   McGowan J produced a summary of the law pertaining to such applications:   “The imperative of strict adherence to the rules of procedure governing the conduct of litigation has changed substantially in recent years. ... Inaction or flawed action can now be penalised even without proof of serious consequential effect on the litigation [Mitchell and Denton considered] ... Delay will meet with less tolerance and intervention to ensure that only those matters which should be litigated are... The rules are not inflexible but will be enforced strictly, more strictly than before...” (paragraph 17)   “It is a balancing act between competing factors and is a matter of discretion. ... It is no longer acceptable to use the test advanced by the Claimant in this case that if the trial date can withstand the amendments, they should be allowed without more. If the date fixed for trial is to be lost, then the factors would need to be extremely compelling. ...” (paragraph 18)   “In this application there is no reason given for the lateness of the proposed amendments. Nothing is raised in the application that could not have been pleaded in the original or amended Particulars of Claim. No explanation is given for the omissions or the delay...” and that the point was of great significance and if allowed “[t]he entire nature of the litigation would have been different” (paragraph 19)   It was not accepted “that all evidence, factual and expert can be obtained and exchanged within a timeframe that does not imperil the trial date...”  (paragraph 20)   “A compelling factor, capable of determining the outcome is much more likely to be admitted that a "kite being flown" in forensic terms” and “There is nothing compelling in the amended claims that would be pursued if these amendments were allowed” (paragraph 21)   The learned judge held as to the Claimant’s application to amend was manifestly made as a reaction to and in an attempt to defeat the Defendant’s Applications, and were “misconceived and much too late in the protracted history of this litigation” (paragraph 26).   In respect of the Defendant’s Applications, it was held that its applications for summary judgment and/or strike out are made in good time.   The court gave summary judgement as to two aspects of the claim relating to whether the Defendant breached its fiduciary duty and an alleged lost opportunity to share in the increase in value of estate property.   The Court struck out the claim for loss of profits brought by the Claimant (a solicitor herself) to her own practice in assisting the gathering of evidence for the case. It was held that the Defendants had not “been put on notice that this was having a detrimental effect on her own practice and it was never in the contemplation of the parties that they had assumed such a risk. Even if they had been made aware of such a risk it is too remote from the duties they assumed to include this. In any event this has never been particularised and still remains an assertion without evidence.” (paragraph 24)   The Court also struck out the claim for damages for stress and inconvenience. It held “Such general damages are irrecoverable. This was a not a contract for the provision of a holiday, a pleasurable activity relaxation or peace of mind. ... This was a contract to act in relation to a family dispute over inheritance matters. It is too remote to say that solicitors conducting litigation assume liability for the stresses that that imposes on the litigants involved. It is difficult to imagine what would happen to litigation if there was such a general duty. The Claimant denies that this is a personal injury claim and relies on Malyon v Lawrance, Messer & Co [1968] QBD 2 539 but that was a case in which the litigant claimed damages for the aggravation of his injuries by the solicitors' negligent delay when those injuries were the cause of action in the case. This claim discloses no reasonable ground and has never been particularised.”   The judgment is available at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2016/2349.html.

Assessing the cost of ATE Premiums

If anyone needs a reminded why the costs landscape for personal injury litigators has changed so dramatically they may not need look much further than the judgment of the Designated Civil Judge of the County Court at London, HHJ Walden-Smith, sitting with DJ Letham as assessor in the costs case of Banks v London Borough of Hillingdon, which has been commented upon in the legal press. The case concerned the correct assessment of an After-The-Event insurance policy, an issue which ranked high on the list of insurers' (and it seems the Government's) bugbears with the unreformed CFA system.   The underlying case was a straightforward, low-value, public liability tripper case. The successful claimant was awarded just under £7,000 in damages and costs were assessed/agreed save for a somewhat eye-watering £24,694 ATE premium. Master Gordon-Saker the costs judge cut this down to £9,375 on the basis that it was patently unreasonable for a premium to so extensively exceed the likely assured sum. This latter figure the Master considered would have been a maximum of £15,000, that is, the maximum amount such an insurer would have to pay out in costs should the claimant lose the case. He awarded half this sum, plus another 25 percent. Before the learned senior circuit judge it was argued that the costs master misdirected himself and should have considered the “basket of risk” for insurers, rather than applying some sort of common-sense approach on a case-by-case basis. The court overturned Master Gordon-Saker’s decision on the ground that he indeed erred and failed to consider the august guidance of the Court of Appeal in Rogers v Merthyr Tydfil CBC [2006] EWCA Civ 1134. The court held that it was for the paying party to adduce evidence that the premium was excessive and as this had not been available in the instant case, the costs master had no basis to conclude that the sum claimed was unreasonable (per, Kris Motor Spares Ltd v Fox Williams LLP [2010] EWHC 1008). This decision must be seen as victory for claimant litigators, given that it should serve as a persuasive reminder to trial judges to follow Rogers in the ever-diminishing rump of cases where such high ATE premiums are seen. The lesson for defendants is obvious: in cases where they are put on notice that, if successful, a claimant party will seek payment of what appears to be a very high ATE premium, it would be prudent to obtain evidence that lower premiums were available to support the conclusion that what is allowed should be assessed down. In the event that such information is not available until at or after trial, such a defendant would have little option other than to request that the matter be subject to detailed assessment, potentially at the expense of the claimant party.

QOCS : applies to appeals?

Qualified One-way Costs Shifting: does it apply to appeals?   Yes, according to Edis J in Parker v Butler [2016] EWHC 1251 (QB), who held:   3.         If (as is likely to be the case here) the claimant's access to justice is dependent on the benefit of QOCS, that access will be significantly reduced if he is exposed to a risk as to the costs of any unsuccessful appeal which he may bring or any successful appeal a defendant may bring against him. ...   4.         The power to make enforceable orders for costs is designed to compensate successful parties for their expense in bringing or resisting claims, but it also has an effect of deterring people from bringing or resisting claims unsuccessfully. It is an incentive to resolve disputes and serves a public as well as a private interest. ...   9.         CPR 44.13 provides "(1) This Section applies to proceedings which include a claim for damages – (a) for personal injuries"   10.       The issue is, therefore, whether the appeal is part of the proceedings which include a claim for damages for personal injuries or whether it is separate from them and thus not subject to the regime. If it is separate from the proceedings which culminated in the trial, is it nonetheless a set of proceedings which includes a claim for damages?   17.       An appeal by a claimant against the dismissal of his claim for personal injuries is a means of pursuing that claim against the defendant or defendants who succeeded in defeating that claim at trial. There is no difference between the parties or the relief sought as there is between the original claim and the Part 20 claim. Most importantly, to my mind there is no difference between the nature of the claimant at trial and the appellant on appeal. He is the same person, and the QOCS regime exists for his benefit as the best way to protect his access to justice to pursue a personal injury claim. To construe the word "proceedings" as excluding an appeal which was necessary if he were to succeed in establishing the claim which had earlier attracted costs protection would do nothing to serve the purpose of the QOCS regime. ...

Cost Budgets – Rule Changes

Changes to the CPR coming into force today alter the rules relating to cost budgets. In cases with a stated value of over £50,000 all parties except litigants in person will now exchange budgets 21 days before the first case management conference. Parties must then file an agreed  “budget discussion report” at least 7 days before the first CMC setting out what is agreed, what not agreed, and brief grounds for the latter. The parties are encouraged, but not required, to use a new precedent (“Precedent R”) for the purposes of the budget discussion report. New Rule 3.13 reads:  (1) Unless the court otherwise orders, all parties except litigants in person must file and exchange budgets— (a) where the stated value of the claim on the claim form is less than £50,000, with their directions questionnaires; or (b) in any other case, not later than 21 days before the first case management conference. (2) In the event that a party files and exchanges a budget under paragraph (1), all other parties, not being litigants in person, must file an agreed budget discussion report no later than 7 days before the first case management conference.   Paragraph 6A of Practice Direction 3E now reads: The budget discussion report required by rule 3.13(2) must set out— (a) those figures which are agreed for each phase; (b) those figures which are not agreed for each phase; and (c) a brief summary of the grounds of dispute. The parties are encouraged to use the Precedent R Budget Discussion Report annexed to this Practice Direction.   These changes are to be welcomed. Earlier exchange of budgets before a CMC should ensure that points of dispute are identified earlier and with greater clarity. Having the extent of agreement and disagreement in a single document also makes sense. Previously one often had to refer to points spread across a stream of correspondence. There remain more fundamental problems with cost budgets which are not addressed by these changes. It remains to be seen whether further reform can make the system as a whole operate smoothly and efficiently.