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Chandler v Goodwin

11 March 2002
The issues

Costs – unreasonable conduct – refusal to negotiate.

The facts

The Claimant suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from her gas boiler which was leaking. Liability was admitted but the case proceeded as to causation and quantum. At Case Management, the Defendant asked for a Without Prejudice meeting for the purposes of settlement negotiations. There was no response to the suggestion. Subsequently, the Defendant suggested that Counsel meet in a round-table discussion with the aim of settling the action. Again, the request was ignored. The Defendant paid into Court £328,000.00. The Payment In was rejected. 14 days before Trial the Claimant agreed to a Without Prejudice meeting. At that meeting the Claimant’s Counsel indicated that the Claimant was looking for a figure in excess of £800,000.00. An increased offer of £378,000.00 was put forward but rejected. At Trial, the Claimant offered £525,000.00 which was rejected but settlement was reached at £475,000.00. At the Assessment Hearing in respect of costs, the Defendant argued on the basis of Claimant’s conduct, that all costs between the meeting and Trial should be disallowed on the basis that if the offer of £525,000.00 had been made at that meeting, settlement would have been achieved.

The decision

The circumstances of this case led the Costs Judge to conclude that the Claimant’s Counsel had not made any real efforts to attempt negotiations for settlement. Two thirds of Counsel’s fees were disallowed together with 10% of Claimant’s Solicitors costs from the date of the without prejudice meeting to Trial.

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