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Wingrove v North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol County Court, 7 June 2002

7 June 2002
The issues

Costs – Proportionality – Insurance premium

The facts

This was a case in which liability had been settled. There had been a delay in the treatment of the Claimant. A Part 36 Offer of £2,000.00 was accepted by the Claimant. The matter went to Detailed Assessment of Claimant’s costs.

An hourly rate of £150.00 was claimed. Base profit costs were put at £2,141.00. A success fee of 100% was claimed. The Defendants objected to base costs, insurance premium, which was claimed at £3,250.00, and success fee on the grounds that all were disproportionate to the value of the claim. The Defendants also argued that the charging rate was too high on the grounds that this case, though technically a clinical negligence claim, was not one that required a Clinical Negligence Specialist.

The decision

1. The claim did not require a clinical negligence specialist. The hourly rate would be reduced from £150 to £125.

2. The insurance premium would be reduced to £1,995. Further objections were rejected by the Judge who noted firstly an absence of judicial knowledge with regard to the subject and, secondly, the absence of sufficient contrary evidence regarding other comparable insurance premiums/levels of cover.

3. The success fee was too high. 20% was reasonable and would be allowed.

4. Base profit costs were disproportionate. They would be allowed at £1,250.00.

Comments

We were encouraged by the result in this case with regard to the Judge’s robust and sensible decision with regard to proportionality and indeed the hourly rate. We were disappointed that the premium was allowed at the figure that it was allowed at but the case points out the importance of insurers collating with the assistance of their Solicitors, a bank of “market” alternatives. There is of course an interesting “double-bind” here in that one important element in the market might be the sums which Judges allow premiums at!

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