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Earle v Centrica Plc, Ipswich County Court, 25 July 2005

14 October 2005
The issues

Costs – Medical Agency Fee – Whether Recoverable

The facts

The Claimant was injured in a road traffic accident and brought proceedings against the Defendant. The claim was settled for £3850.00. A Costs Bill of £2422.10 was claimed.

The Defendants challenged the medical expert and agency fees. The Claimant brought proceedings for the balance of costs being the disbursements to which they claimed entitlement in accordance with CPR Part 45 relating to fixed recoverable costs in road traffic accidents. The disbursements amounted to an invoice for £25.00 plus VAT from MDL Medical Administration Ltd, a GP release charge of £50.00 for the notes and an invoice for £435.00 for the expert’s report

The decision

1. Disbursements which were recoverable were limited to the cost of obtaining medical reports, medical records, a police report, an engineer’s report or a search of the records of the DVLA together with any other disbursements that had arisen due to a particular feature of the dispute.

2. Following Stringer v Copley and the decision in Claims Direct test cases tranche 2, there was no principle which precluded the fees of a medical agency being recoverable between the parties provided it could be shown that their charges did not exceed what was reasonable and proportionate if the work had been done by solicitors. The District Judge had been shown an agreement between MDL and the medical expert in question. That doctor failed to clarify the basis of the £25.00 charge. The medical expert under that agreement was paid £285.00 and the expert had to pay MDL an appropriate annual fee. The case concerned predictable costs regime. There was a risk that solicitors would seek to circumvent the restrictions on their profit costs by delegating matters which would normally be viewed as solicitors work to third parties who could claim as disbursements the work that the solicitor would normally have expected to perform within the predictable fee structure. This might affect engineering agencies as much as medical agencies. This would subvert the policy considerations behind the predictable costs regime.

3. Any doubts which the Court had had to be resolved in favour of the paying party. On the material available to the Court the Claimant was entitled only to the record production fee of £50.00 and the medical expert’s fee of £285.00. Since the Claimant had not made disclosure of the MDL Agreement as had been invited by the Defendant prior to the issue of process the Claimant would be awarded neither interest nor costs.

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