piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Costs budgeting: are incurred costs untouchable?

How do you get around costs budgeting? One might have thought by incurring considerable costs before the CCMC: Practice direction 3E 7.4 states that the court may not approve costs incurred before the date of a budget. In CIP Properties Ltd v Galliford Try Infrastructure [2015] EWHC 481 Coulson J came up with an order which would prevent parties to litigation trying to get around the process. In the recent case of GSK Project Management Ltd v QPR Holdings Limited [2015] EWHC 2274 Stuart-Smith J made a similar order (will it become known as a ‘Coulson Order’ or a ‘CIP Order?) In GSK Stuart-Smith J was managing the costs in a dispute over works carried out at Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road ground. The claim was essentially for £805,675 of unpaid sums due under the contract and there was a counterclaim for defective works. The claimant’s costs budget was for £824,038 and it stated that over £310,000 had been incurred already. The budget therefore exceeded the sums at stake. The defendant’s budget was £455,554 in total although, as the judge commented, a comparison was not appropriate because of the very different hourly rates; comparing the hours was therefore more illuminating. ‘Broad brush’ or detailed approach? Stuart-Smith J commented that experience in the TCC had shown that most costs budgeting reviews can and should be carried out quickly and with the application of a fairly broad brush. He said that ‘only exceptionally will it be appropriate or necessary to go through a Precedent H with a fine tooth-comb, analysing the makeup of figures in detail.’ This, however, he considered an exceptional case because the aggregate sum was so disproportionate to the sums at stake and the length and complexity of the case. Proportionality: The judge’s starting point was that a case would have to be wholly exceptional to render a costs budget of £824,000 proportional for the recovery of £805,000 plus interest. It was not. There were no novel or difficult issues of law, there was only a handful of witnesses, trial had only been listed for 4 days and it was not a document heavy case. He took the view that good reason would need to be shown to justify more than half the figure of £825,000 on proportionality grounds. Reasonableness: the judge rejected the submission that his starting point should be the other party’s budget as parties have different roles and responsibilities. However he accepted he should have regard to it as it ‘may provide useful indicators’. The judge rebuffed a submission that the Defendant had underestimated the resources necessary for the litigation with the comment that such a submission would “probably require evidence and not mere assertion”. That evidence was not available. Pre-action costs: the lesson to draw from the judge’s comments is that if pre-action costs/hours are high then a judge is likely to expect solicitors to be ‘well on top of the case by the time of issue’. If little progress has been made the judge is likely to consider the time has ‘not been reasonably or proportionately incurred.’ The judge said that if he could approve pre-action costs he would have approved £13,500 rather than the £43,067 incurred. Issue/statements of case: the incurred costs for this phase were £246,908. The judge was very critical of the lack of explanation of what had been done during the hours billed given they were so high. He ultimately concluded that £115,000 would have been a reasonable and proportionate expenditure on this phase. Remaining phases: the judge took a hatchet to the remaining phases of the budget on the basis of what he considered reasonable and proportionate. By the time he had finished he had reduced it to £422,622 which, as “it turns out” (he observed), was almost exactly the same as his first assessment of proportionality of the sums being estimated. He then rounded the budget up to £425,000. The court’s difficulty: The problem for the judge was that his £425,000 would have involved substituting his figures for incurred costs which he was not entitled to do. The judge referred to the options Coulson J had set out in CIP Properties (AIPT) Limited v Galliford Try Infrastructure Limited [2015] EWHC 481 (TCC) namely: Order a new budget Declining to approve the claimant’s costs budget Set budget figures and allowing the relevant party to take their chances on incurred costs Refuse to allow any further costs Coulson J settled on (iii) but identified the difficulty: it potentially enabled the claimant to ride roughshod over the budgeting process. The incurred costs were untouchable (£310,000 in GSK ) in the budgeting process but if they were allowed on assessment, they would potentially enable the claimant to exceed the budget set at the CCMC. Coulson J’s way around this was to say effectively to any subsequent costs judge, “if you assess the costs incurred above my figure then you will have to reduce the amount for later work because my estimate will need to be adjusted accordingly.” He put it in a more judicial way setting out the figure he approved for each phase and making the following comment: “I take that figure into account when assessing each element of the prospective/estimated costs dealt with below. To the extent that the claimant recovers more than £x.xx on assessment under this head, it would mean that more work had been legitimately done in the earlier stages of the case than I thought, which would in turn mean that less remained to be done in the future. Thus the prospective costs figures approved below would fall to be reduced by an equivalent sum.” Stuart-Smith J adopted the same approach and stated “in this way the incurred costs/approved costs budget will be a total of £425,000.” He referred succintly to “97(a) of CIP Properties”. The judge concluded by describing the costs estimate as “grossly excessive” being overstated by almost 100%. He made the claimant pay the costs of the issue and ordered the claimant’s solicitors to bring the terms of the judgment to the attention of any paying client who had retained them and to notify the court when it had been done.

Expert evidence in road traffic cases

Is the evidence of an expert in cycling safety reasonably required in a personal injury claim arising out of an accident which the claimant alleges was caused by the highway authority’s breach of duty (in respect of maintenance, layout etc)? At a Case Management conference in the case of Allen v Cornwall Council [2015] EWHC 1461 the District Judge gave the claimant permission to rely on such evidence to deal with allegations of contributory negligence made by the defendant. He refused to grant the defendant permission to rely on its own evidence.  In the case of Liddell v Middleton (7th July 1995, Unreported), the Court of Appeal gave guidance as to the admissibility of expert evidence in road traffic claims. Stuart-Smith L.J. said that in such cases the function of the expert is to furnish the judge with the necessary scientific criteria and assistance based upon his special skill and experience not possessed by ordinary laymen to enable the judge to interpret the factual evidence of the marks on the road, the damage, or whatever it may be. What he is not entitled to do is reach conclusions on facts or give his opinion on whether there was a breach of duty. In Liddell the Court of Appeal found the ‘expert’ had overstepped the mark and given evidence which was entirely irrelevant and inadmissible. The defendant in Allen appealed the District Judge’s order and the case was heard by Green J. He would not interfere with what was a case management decision of the district judge. Green J found that the district judge was addressing a threshold issue as to whether the evidence should be admitted for the purpose of case management but, he had made it clear it was without prejudice to any more mature and considered view which a trial judge might take. He had not given the defendant permission to have its own report because it might see the expert evidence of the claimant and decide that it wanted to abandon allegations of contributory negligence altogether. Green J held that the district judge had not seen the expert’s report at the time he made his decision and therefore he was not in a position to assess its content; he took account of the fact his decision would not bind the trial judge. Green J thought that the facts of the case were somewhat unusual (as it was not a case of a collision with a pedestrian or another vehicle but one involving the condition and layout of the highway). He did not rule on the admissibility of the evidence but thought the judge had not acted outside the generous ambit afforded to a judge exercising his case management powers. Green J acknowledged the ‘practical force’ of the defendant’s complaint that the judge should have required the report to be prepared and produced before granting permission. Indeed the defendant’s suggestion that this would have been the appropriate course was commended as ‘sensible’. It is notably the course commended by the Court of Appeal in Casey v Cartwright in the context of low velocity road traffic accident litigation. But Green J did not think the judge had erred in not adopting this approach. This case raises an interesting question as to when exactly the threshold is reached for the granting of permission for expert evidence at the case management stage: when is expert evidence ‘reasonably required’ (CPR 35.1)? In Casey the question was whether, once the judge had seen the expert evidence, the issue itself had a ‘real prospect of success’. Liddell v Middleton and the decision in Allen tend to suggest that at the case management stage the question is no more than whether it is arguable that the evidence is admissible - the final decision rests with the trial judge. The questions the expert was to examine included where a cyclist should be positioned on a carriageway and whether he was cycling too fast or should have dismounted where visibility was poor. Do such questions require expert evidence? If so, why not in cases involving motorcycling, lorry driving and other modes of transport which may be outside the experience of a trial judge? It will be interesting to see what the trial judge decides. In the meantime it is striking that, at the appeal, Green J gave the defendant permission to rely on its own expert evidence before it had seen the evidence of the claimant. Draw what conclusions you will… (Ian Miller represented the defendant on the appeal)

Have we started yet? Commencement of contested hearing and CFA uplifts

When a trial begins is of obvious import to any litigant where one or more party is funded by a conditional fee agreement which provides for an uplift per CPR 45.16 and 45.17. Mrs Justice Slade in a recent appeal from Master Campbell held that a contested hearing on the issue of liability had yet to commence before a subsequent settlement.   The facts of James v Ireland [2015] EWHC 1259 (QB) are unusual but not exceptional.   On the first day of a three day trial of a personal injuries case, the claimant successfully applied for an adjournment of the issue of quantum, it being intended that the issue of liability would proceed. Unusually however, late evidence disclosed by the defendant that hitherto unidentified independent witness. To allow for a statement to be taken from the same by the claimant, the matter was adjourned to the following day. The judge asked counsel what to read overnight. The next day it was revealed that attempts to contact the elusive independent witness had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the case was adjourned to the afternoon so that attempts could continue. These attempts were also fruitless, however given the likely importance of the witness the case was stood out. The judge reserved the matter to himself for a hearing at a later date. This hearing never took place as the claim was settled.   Had the liability trial commenced? The master held that it had. Counsel had entered court. Reading had commenced. Submissions had been provided and considered as to the adjournments. Thus, it was held that the claimant was entitled to the 100 percent costs uplift.   The defendant appealed, arguing that the master erred by failing to hold that nothing in the heard proceedings constituted a core event, such as would indicate that the liability trial had begun (Cutler v Stephenson and Manchester City Council [2008] EWHC 3622 (QB); Gandy v King [2010] EWHC 90177 (Costs)). It was further submitted that the judge would have held that the case was part heard had he considered the trial to have begun, rather than ordered it to be relisted reserved to himself. The claimant argued that the trial had begun as the judge had done pre-reading and that the submissions on the quantum aspect of the case would not have required further elucidation to open as to liability.   The Defendant’s submissions found favour with Mrs Justice Slade who held that a final contested hearing of the liability issue was not triggered by the commencement of any hearing of any nature related to the same. The hearing which was commenced was akin to a case management hearing, as the same did not consider any aspect necessary to determine the question of liability. The reading undertaken by the judge was held to have been prudent use of court time rather than a substantive consideration of a core issue. She held further that the transcripts actually supported the contention that the judge was unaware of the scope of the main issues of the case as to liability when the matter was stood out.

Costs Budgeting: reforms on their way…

Jackson L.J. delivered a speech on costs budgeting on Wednesday. For many of us engaged in CCMCs who encounter inconsistency, courts overwhelmed by the volume of hearings, unnecessary costs incurred and often the thinly disguised frustration of judges with the process, his conclusion that ‘costs management works’, may come as a surprise. His proposals for reform, including fixed costs in some multi-track cases, may not. In his speech he gave 7 benefits of costs management (see below) but he also dealt with objections and problems and made recommendations. I pick out a few: First, he mentioned the costs of the process in low value multi-track cases which he defined as up to ‘about £50,000’. Leeds District Judges recommended fixed costs for such cases and Jackson L.J. endorsed the recommendation for fixed costs in the lower reaches of the multi-track ‘strongly’. Secondly, the issue of judicial inconsistency, unduly long hearings and micro-management he thought should be dealt with by better compulsory judicial training. Thirdly, the problem of the wide variation in the forms of costs management orders he recommended should be dealt with by a standard form of costs management order. Fourthly, he thought that the time for filing and exchanging budgets should be increased so that they are lodged 14 days before the CCMC although there must be a discretion for the court to specify a different period. Fifthly, he was of the view that Precedent H could be improved but he recognised that solicitors had been developing their IT systems for the purpose of completing Precedent H and therefore he did not want to make successive changes. Sixthly, the problem of delays and backlogs of CCMCs he thought should be tackled by repealing PD 3E which says that courts will generally make a costs management order under rule 3.15 where costs budgets are filed and exchanged. The PD should be replaced with a judicial discretion on whether to make a costs management order and criteria to guide its exercise. Seventhly, he acknowledged the backlog of clinical negligence cases in London and suggested that all London Clinical negligence cases with CCMCs listed between October 2014 and January 2016 be released from costs management and called in for short old-style CMCs. He thought a similar solution might be required in Birmingham and Manchester. Eightly, he addressed the issue of incurred costs and the practice of doing as much work before the CCMC in order to shelter costs within the ‘incurred’ column. He did not think that it was appropriate for judges at detailed assessments to treat absence of ‘comment’ on incurred costs as approval. He suggested powers to comment on incurred costs, summarily assess them or set a global figure for any phase to act as an incentive not to put forward excessive incurred costs. In clinical negligence cases he thought that there was a need to introduce pre-action costs management. Ninthly, Jackson L.J. expressed concern about the increase of court fees introduced in March 2015. He thought they should be disregarded when considering whether a party’s costs are proportionate. These are just some of the areas touched upon in Jackson L.J.’s speech which can be read in full by following my hyperlink. He ended his talk by arguing that Costs Management was in the public interest. He thought that lawyers disliked it because it meant more work and required us to develop new skills. He predicted that within the next 10 years costs management would be accepted as an entirely normal discipline and people would wonder what all the fuss was about. For the time being Costs Budgeting is here to stay – but reform is now overwhelmingly likely to occur and we can expect to hear from the Coulson Committee in due course on what form the new rules are likely to take.   The benefits of Costs Management (refered to above) Both parties to litigation know where they stand financially It encourages early settlement It controls costs from an early stage It focuses attention on costs at the outset It stops CMCs from being formulaic leading to debate about what is really required It is fair to give your opposition notice of what you are claiming It prevents losing parties from being destroyed by costs  

New law - fundamental dishonesty in PI claims

The government brought into force last week a new law preventing claimants from recovering damages for personal injury when they have been fundamentally dishonest, unless it would cause substantial injustice. In the case of Summers v Fairclough Homes Ltd  [2012] UKSC 26 the claimant was injured in an accident at work and claimed more than £800,000 from his employer. Surveillance revealed him to have grossly exaggerated the effect of his injuries. At trial he was found to have fraudulently misstated the extent of his claim but the judge declined to strike out his claim and awarded £88,716. The defendant appealed and the Supreme Court held that it had jurisdiction to strike out the claimant’s statement of case but that it would only be done in exceptional circumstances, not least as the judgment on liability amounted to a possession for the purposes of the ECHR. The claim was not struck out. Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 looks as though it would have changed the outcome of Summers dramatically. Here are some of the ingredients and likely problems: ‘fundamental dishonesty’ - the defendant has to prove on the balance of probabilities that the claimant has been ‘fundamentally dishonest’  - a concept which the courts have been grappling with since its introduction in CPR Part 44.16(1) as an exception to the rules on qualified one way costs shifting. Considerable uncertainty remains as to the difference between ‘dishonesty’ and ‘fundamental dishonesty’. ‘primary claim or a related claim’ – the fundamental dishonesty must be ‘in relation to the primary claim or a related claim’. It will be interesting to see how far the courts will go in construing ‘a related claim’ which is defined at s.57(8) as “a claim for damages in respect of personal injury which is made (a) in connection with the same incident or series of incidents in connection with which the primary claim is made, and (b) by a person other than the person who made the primary claim.” ‘application by the defendant’ - the court cannot dismiss the claim under s.57 unless an application is made by the defendant for its dismissal. ‘substantial injustice’ – the court ‘must dismiss the primary claim’ unless satisfied the claimant would suffer ‘substantial injustice’ if it were dismissed. Again, it is not clear what the difference is between ‘injustice’ and ‘substantial injustice’. How is a judge to decide? Would the depriving a claimant of £88,716 amount to a substantial injustice? It is likely that the courts will want to give very careful thought to the needs of the injured claimant (care, economic etc) and consider how well they will be met in the event that the money is not paid over. What will happen to claims for gratuitous care which a claimant is supposed to hold on trust for the providers of that care? They may have nothing to do with the claimant’s dishonesty and yet might find themselves deprived of thousands of pounds for the hours they have given. I anticipate that a large body of case law will quickly grow up around this section. Recording damages – the court must record the amount of damages it would have awarded the claimant and then deduct them from the amount it would otherwise have awarded the defendant in costs. The dismissal of the claim under s.57 must be taken into account in a sentence handed down in any subsequent criminal proceedings S.57 only applies to claims issued after 13th April 2015. Mr Summers may well have been £88,716 poorer had this section been enacted prior to the issue of his proceedings. It will be interesting to see how often section 57 is pleaded and what the courts make of the concepts of ‘fundamental dishonesty’, ‘substantial injustice’ and ‘related claims’.

Personal Injury and the Party Manifestos

Is there anything in the parties' manifestos which might affect the field of personal injury? Reforms since 2010 include a new fixed costs regime, costs management/budgeting and greatly increased court fees. Civil liability has been removed for breaches of health and safety regulations. But what is being promised for the future? The Conservative Manifesto includes a pledge to reform human rights law. It would scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights. The intention is that this will break the formal link between British Courts and the European Court of Human Rights making the Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.  More is said in the section on the European Union: the Bill will remain faithful to the basic principles of human rights but “will reverse the mission creep that has meant human rights law being used for more and more purposes, and often with little regard for the rights of wider society.” The manifesto also pledges to continue “the £375 million modernisation of our courts system, reducing delay and frustration for the public.” A commitment is also made for an ongoing review of legal aid. The Labour Manifesto takes the opposite view on the Human Rights Act. It states that Labour would protect it and reform rather than walk away from the European Court of Human Rights. The manifesto is silent on what that reform would be. The manifesto also includes a pledge that access to legal representation would not be determined by personal wealth but would remain available to those who need it. The Liberal Democrat Manifesto states that the Liberal Democrats would protect the Human Rights Act and enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in UK Law. It specifically states that the Liberal Democrats would take “appropriate action to comply with decisions of the UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights.” The Liberal Democrats have a commitment to introduce a Freedoms Act which would “cut back on the petty over-regulation of everyday life… permitting swimming in open bodies of water.” (Tomlinson v Congleton springs to mind…). They would “carry out an immediate review of civil Legal Aid… and court fees, in consultation with the judiciary…” They would “reverse any recent rises in up-front court fees that make justice unaffordable for many, and instead” spread the fee burden more fairly. They would also retain access to recoverable success fees and insurance premiums in asbestosis claims and where an individual is suing the police. There is also a pledge to support innovation like the provision of “civil justice online” and expansion of ADR. The UKIP Manifesto states that the burden of complying with EU laws on health and safety can be overwhelming for small firms. The manifesto has a commitment to repeal EU Regulations which stifle business growth. As to human rights, UKIP would remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and make the UK’s Supreme Court the final authority on matters of human rights. It would repeal the Human Rights Act and introduce a UK Bill of Rights which would complement the UN Declaration of Human Rights and “encapsulate all the human and civil rights that UK citizens have acquired under UK law since Magna Carta.” The Green Manifesto states it will “move towards a written constitution with a Bill of Rights” it also has a commitment to keeping the Human Rights Act and retaining the UK’s membership of the ECHR. There is a pledge to “restore the cuts to Legal Aid, costing around £700 million a year” although it is not clear whether this has anything to do with personal injury. It is interesting that none of the political parties have a commitment to reinstate civil liability for breach of health and safety regulations made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.   Trivia Comparative lengths of the manifestos: Conservatives:                 84 pages Labour:                            86 pages Liberal Democrats:          158 pages UKIP:                              76 pages Green:                              84 pages   Commitment requiring more explanation: “Ban high-frequency Mosquito devices which discriminate against young people.” (Liberal Democrats)

A prediction for 2015: costs budgeting is doomed

With the new year come predictions as to what will happen in 2015. Tom Standage of the Economist predicts that our smart phones will become smarter with the use of anticipatory or predictive intelligence - our phones may suggest we leave earlier for a dinner date if the traffic is bad or offer sending a message to other participants if we are late for meetings. Paul Lee of Deloittes predicts drones will be used more by business, Neil Murray of Mimecast unsurprisingly thinks that internet security will become an even greater issue and Simon Culmer thinks more customer service will be provided by video. These are some predictions from the technology of business pundits*. What of the law? It may be folly to make any predictions as to changes to the law but I would nonetheless hazard a guess that costs budgeting will either be abolished or reformed in 2015. Some judges are open in their dislike of costs budgeting whilst others betray their views more subtly in comments or general demeanour. Cost budget hearings must take up a large amount of court time and it is questionable whether they are looked at again in many cases before detailed assessment takes place (if indeed it does). Whereas in the past directions might have been agreed between the parties or dealt with briefly at a telephone CMC in multi track cases they are now dealt with at lengthy CCMC's. Large numbers of cases settle before getting to trial and in those cases the budgeting process adds to the use of court time and the costs incurred unnecessarily. The Costs Budgeting procedure has provided the legal profession with additional tasks for which we can bill and it has thrown a lifeline to costs draftsmen in the Jackson era. If costs budgeting is abolished or reformed the alternative may well be more predictive costs. It may be that costs budgeting will be retained for much higher value multi track claims but a predictive costs regime for those with a lower value. I wonder what my smart phone has to say about the matter... * http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30442178

Shooting Admiral Byng

Admiral Byng was held responsible for the loss of Minorca in 1756. He was relieved of his command, court martialled and shot by a firing squad. Voltaire remarked of the decision to shoot him that it was beneficial to kill an Admiral from time to time “pour encourager les autres”. Although Hildyard J. made reference to Admiral Byng in his judgment in the case of Caliendo v Mishcon de Reya [2014] EWHC 3414 he was not prepared metaphorically to shoot the Claimant’s solicitors, DLA Piper LLP, to encourage the rest of us. DLA were 3 ½ months late in serving notice on the defendant of the existence of a CFA and an ATE policy in a professional negligence claim. They made an application for relief from sanctions at the time of service of proceedings and admitted that they had no good reason for their failure. The judge accepted the serious effect of the ATE/CFA funding arrangements but considered that what mattered for the first limb of the Denton test was the seriousness and significance of late notification. He held that the defendant had not been able to show ‘material prejudice’. This seems a slightly different test from whether or not the breach was ‘serious and significant’ - a failure to pay court fees was given as an example in Denton of a breach which is serious and significant but it cannot be said to cause ‘material prejudice’ to the other party. The judge’s application of the third limb of the Denton test (evaluation all the circumstances of the case so as to deal justly with the case) was also interesting. When dealing with the impact on other court users, the judge was keen to emphasise that he was not aware of any specific detriment to court users such as in Mitchell where the adjournment of the cost budget hearing caused an adjournment and the vacating of an asbestosis claim. It is submitted that the test of the impact on other court users has always been difficult – on the one hand information of a specific detriment is rarely likely to be available outside, perhaps, the masters’ corridor in the RCJ whereas, on the other hand, without such specific detriment the courts and parties will often be merely speculating. The judge did not consider it would be just to withhold relief from sanction. Whereas Denton undoubtedly softened the Mitchell regime, judgments such as this are taking us still closer to the former relief from sanctions test which focused on the requirements of justice - too late to save some of the Admiral Byngs of the past year.

Changes to PD 21 of the CPR from 1 October 2014

From 1 October 2014 there will be two important changes to the Practice Direction to Part 21 of the CPR which will affect the preparation and conduct of settlement approval hearings.   In cases where the approval is sought of a settlement or compromise by or on behalf of a child or protected party before proceedings have been issued, a claimant child or protected party in a personal injury case arising from an accident is now obliged to file with the claim for the approval of a settlement, “medical and quantum reports and joint statements material to the opinion [of counsel or a solicitor as to quantum, except in very clear cases] required by paragraph 5.2”. This change ensures that the medical evidence filed is that which is pertinent to the Opinion on quantum.   In cases where the approval is sought of a settlement or compromise by or on behalf of a child or protected party after proceedings have been issued, the prescribed opinion as to quantum of counsel or a solicitor must now crucially also include “documentary evidence material to the [said] opinion” (per new Para 6.4(3)). This change has the potential to affect the Court’s ability to approve the settlement or compromise of a claim reached unexpectedly at trial for example – i.e. in circumstances where the same was not anticipated. Should therefore such agreement be reached, it may be that it is unlikely a court would approve the same unless all medical reports, schedules of loss, and potentially lay evidence as to the child’s or protected party’s medical condition was available to be placed before the court.   Full details of all upcoming changes can be found at: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/pdf/update/75th-update-pd-making-document.pdf

A Judgment for What? The Effect of Default Judgments

Where a defendant admits breach of duty but wishes to contest causation, injury and quantum, it has in the past been common practice for it to allow judgment to be entered in default of Acknowledgment of Service or of Defence and to proceed to contest the remaining issues at an assessment of damages hearing.  An alternative course of action, which in the short term is more expensive, is to file a Defence making appropriate admissions and then for the claimant to seek entry of a judgment for damages to be assessed. In Symes v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust [2014] EWHC 2505 (QB), the claimant was referred to hospital in October 2008 by his GP with a lump on his face which turned out to be a malignant tumour.  In January 2009, a consultant decided that he should have an urgent superficial parotidectomy, but that was not carried out prior to May 2009, when it was found that the tumour had invaded the facial nerve and there had been metastasis to the lungs, leading to the need for a total parotidectomy and the loss of the left facial nerve and inoperable lung cancer.  In 2011, an open admission was made that there had been a breach of duty in failing to identify that the lump was suspicious of malignancy and in the delay in operating, but the defendant’s solicitors made it clear that its view was that the invasion of the facial nerve and the metastasis to the lungs were not attributable to either breach of duty. Proceedings were initially struck out for non-service, but on re-issue, the claimant pleaded his causation case in detail in the Particulars of Claim.  The defendant did not enter an Acknowledgment of Service or a Defence.  Master Roberts entered judgment in default of Acknowledgment of Service and set a date for a directions hearing.  The parties agreed the terms of an order before the hearing and the Master ordered that the parties would have permission to rely on expert evidence on “quantum, condition and prognosis” from experts in oncology and care.  The defendant continued to reiterate in discussions between solicitors that the claimant’s case on quantum was in dispute, save that it was accepted that there was a liability to pay damages for pain and suffering during the delay in treatment.  However, it was not until the claimant sought an interim payment of £50,000 that his advisers expressly asserted that the default judgment precluded the defendant from contesting the pleaded allegations of causation.  Whether or not the claimant was entitled to that interim payment depended largely on whether the claimant was correct as to the effect of the default judgment. At first instance, in a judgment given on March 21st 2014, the Master upheld the claimant’s contention.  He ruled that the Particulars of Claim stood as a template for the default judgment and that the defendant accordingly could not contest causation.  He castigated the defendant for having acted in a manner contrary to the overriding objective and having failed to comply with the obligation in CPR 16.5 to respond properly to the Particulars of Claim by serving a Defence. On appeal, Simon Picken QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, allowed the appeal.  In his judgment, the deputy judge reviewed the case law in some detail.  In particular, he closely examined the leading case on the subject, Lunnun v Singh [1999] CPLR 587, which had followed an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal refusing permission to appeal in Turner v Toleman [1999] unreported, January 15th.  The judge held at [62]-[63] that he was bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal in Lunnun to conclude that the default judgment established no more than that the defendant was in breach of duty and that the breach had caused some damage.  There was no special rule applicable to clinical negligence cases: at [64].  Lunnun remained good law following the introduction of the CPR: at [65].  He also said that as a matter of principle that since the defendant admitted part of the claimant’s pleaded case on causation (that the delay in treatment led to pain and suffering) there was no basis to construe the default judgment as extending to the other consequences which were said to follow from the breaches of duty: at [66]-[68]. The deputy judge then went on to consider whether the defendant had acted contrary to the CPR.  The rules did not state that the effect of a default judgment for damages to be assessed precluded a claimant from contesting a pleaded case as to causation: at [83].  It followed from the decision as to the effect of the default judgment that the defendant had been entitled not to serve a Defence and so there was no breach of CPR 16.5: at [84]-[85].  Accordingly, while it “would have been more sensible” for the defendant to serve a Defence, it was not in breach of the rules for failing to do so: at [86]-[87].  Nor was the defendant in breach of the overriding objective, since it had made its position clear in correspondence to the claimant’s advisers, if not to the court: at [89]-[91].  The claimant’s advisers accepted that they had known that the defendant’s solicitors were under what they regarded as a misapprehension.  In those circumstances, both parties should have brought the misunderstanding before the court at an earlier stage: at [92].  In Parkhouse v North Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, at a hearing on May 6th 2014, this course had been taken where default judgment had been entered but at a directions hearing, the defendant had made it clear that causation was in dispute.  Master Roberts himself denied that there was any need for the directions order to make clear that it was open to the defendant to contest causation, although in the event a recital was inserted to that effect. The extent to which, in clinical negligence cases, the practice of allowing default judgment to be entered in this way is followed is not clear.  Anecdotally, it appears that both courses of action are utilised by defendant’s solicitors.  Even though the practice has been legitimised (subject to any further appeal to the Court of Appeal) by the decision in Symes, nevertheless the modest cost savings in not serving a Defence in a case where there is a clearly pleaded case in causation are surely outweighed by the need to ensure that both parties are absolutely clear about the extent to which the critical issue of causation is being contested.