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Waterman v South & East Dorset Primary Care Trust, Bristol County Court, 13 April 2004

27 May 2004
The issues

Costs – Detailed Assessment – Proportionality – Appropriate Fee Earner and Rate – Success Fee

The facts

The Claimant brought an action for personal injuries against the Defendant. She suffered an injury on 4th October 2001. The case involved the movement of BOC Oxygen bottles. The claim was slightly unusual in that as a consequence of having to lift bottles the Claimant suffered perineal muscular strain. Liability was admitted on 11th November 2002. The claim was settled without proceedings being issued on 4th August 2003 damages of £2,113.80 being agreed. The matter was conducted under a CCFA and dealt with by a Grade B Fee Earner at a claimed rate of £145.00 per hour. The bill drew at £7333.98. The success fee was claimed at 70% throughout the claim.

The Defendant challenged the quantum of the bill on the grounds of rate, proportionality, and the amount of the success fee claimed.

The decision

1. Proportionality

The bill was disproportionate.

The two-stage process advocated by the Court of Appeal in Lownds would therefore be applied to the Detailed Assessment.

2. Charging Rate

It was unreasonable to instruct Bristol solicitors when the Claimant was resident in Dorset. Bournemouth rates would therefore be applied at a Grade B rate. Accordingly the hourly rate of £145.00 was reduced to £132.50.

3. Success Fee

The risk assessment was signed on 16th April 2002. Accordingly the risk assessment would be applied in respect of three periods of time. In respect of the period of time from instructions until the signing of the risk assessment, a success fee would be reduced to 0%. In respect of the period of time from the signing of the risk assessment until the admission of liability the charging rate would be allowed at 60%. From the date of the admission of liability until the claim was settled the charging rate would be reduced to 25%.

The Claimant’s bill which as drawn amounted to £7333.98 was reduced on Detailed Assessment to £3847.57.

Comments

For further information please contact John Allen at lcjdallen943@aol.com or Marie Macfarlane at mariemacfarlane@veitchpenny.co.uk.

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