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Woollard v Fowler, Weston-Super-Mare County Court, 5 June 2006

5 June 2006
The issues

CPR Part 45 – fixed costs – disbursements – Mobile Doctors Limited – whether fees charged by Mobile Doctors Limited were recoverable.

The facts

Two Claimants brought claims for personal injury following a road traffic accident on 20th October 2003 for which the Defendant admitted liability. The First Claimant’s claim was settled for £1,336.21 and the Second Claimant’s claim for £4,000.00. The Defendant’s insurers paid the Claimant’s costs which were dealt with under CPR Part 45, the fixed costs regime, save for the costs incurred by the Second Claimant for the full amount charged by the medical reporting agency for providing her solicitor with a medical report and medical records as a disbursement under the fixed costs regime of Part 45. From the Detailed Assessment Master Seager Berry sitting as a Deputy District Judge allowed the fees charged by the doctors and hospital but refused to allow the recovery of the fees charged by the medical reporting agency.

The decision

As had been said in Butt v Nizami the intention underlying CPR 45.7 to 14 was to provide an agreed scheme of recovery which was certain and easily calculated. Fixed levels might over reward in some case and under reward in others but were regarded as fair when taken as a whole. In that case the Judge had agreed that disbursements were different from fixed costs but he had rejected any idea that it was anomalous that 45.10 required a different approach. The use of medical agencies had been widespread for a number of years. In cases outside the predictable costs regime the system had operated without undue difficulty provided the fees claimed had been reasonable and proportionate. Those fees had, by general and established custom, been treated as disbursements. The advent of the predictable costs regime did not mean that the Court’s approach to such fees should alter so that they were treated in a different way under the predictable costs regime. One of the difficulties with the proposition relied upon by the paying party was that until a case had been settled it was not known whether the predictable costs regime would apply. One of the underlying objectives in the CPR and Civil Procedure Reforms was the attainment of certainty and transparency in relation to costs. If the paying party’s arguments were correct they would serve to extend uncertainty in relation to medical agency fees until the very last moment which would impede settlement or lead to increase costs.

Appeal allowed.

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