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Lownds v Home Office, Court of Appeal (including Lord Woolf CJ)

2 April 2002
The issues

Costs – proportionality.

The facts

The Claimant brought a clinical negligence action which settled for £3,000.00. The Claimants costs were assessed at £16,784.00. The Defendant appealed to the Judge who dismissed the appeal and subsequently to the Court of Appeal.

The decision

(Lord Woolf CJ)

1. It was essential that Courts give appropriate significance to the requirement of proportionality when assessing and making Orders for costs.

2. A two-stage approach was required. There had to be a global and an item by item approach. The global approach would indicate whether the total sum claimed appeared to be disproportionate. This had to be having regard to Civil Procedure Rules 44.5(iii) i.e. – conduct – efforts made before or during proceedings to settle – the value of the claim – the importance of the matter to the parties – complexity or novelty of the matter – the time spent – the skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility involved – the place and the circumstances in which the work or some of it was carried out.

3. If the costs as a whole were not disproportionate under that test, then all that was further required was that each item should have been reasonably incurred and that the costs for that item should be reasonable.

4. If the costs appeared disproportionate, then the Court would want to be satisfied that the work in respect of each item was necessary and that the cost, if necessary, was reasonable.

5. Where proportionality was in issue, the Costs Judge must give a preliminary Judgment.

6. In deciding what was necessary the other party’s conduct was highly relevant. The other party could not complain if it had been uncooperative.

7. Whether costs were proportionate should be decided having regard to what was reasonable for the party in question to believe might be recovered.

Appeal Dismissed

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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