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Grand v Gill, Court of Appeal, 27 July 2011

8 August 2011
The issues

Costs – litigant in person – proportionality.

The facts

The Claimant, Tanya Grand, brought an action against her former landlord, Param Gill, for damages for breach of covenant. She was a litigant in person. Mr Gill was represented by Counsel. At the Trial the Judge awarded Ms Grand £5,600. She Appealed against that Order.

At the Appeal, Ms Grand was represented by Counsel acting pro bono, whereas Mr Gill represented himself. On Appeal, the Judge’s award was increased from £5,600 to £6,275, which with interest amounted to an overall award of £6,454.82. The Appeal had therefore been successful, although it had yielded a gain of only £854.82. Mr Gill was ordered by the Appeal Court to make a payment of £2,500 in costs to a prescribed charity. This Order was made pursuant to Section 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007, giving jurisdiction to the Court to make such a costs Order in respect of pro bono representation.

Following Judgment, Ms Grand said she wanted to apply for costs against Mr Gill in respect of her own time that she had spent as a litigant in person pursuing her Appeal.

Ms Grand sought costs of £15,257.50. The Court of Appeal heard Ms Grand’s Application, with the intention that if persuaded that Ms Grand should have costs, that the Court should assess them summarily given that the Appeal had lasted less than one day.

The decision

The starting point was CPR Part 44.3.

Mr Gill had resisted Ms Grand’s Appeal unsuccessfully. In principle therefore Ms Grand was entitled to an Order for costs. Since Ms Grand did not claim to have suffered financial loss for her time spent on doing the work, the amount she could recover was limited to £9.25 per hour. In addition, there was a cap as to what she could recover, namely two-thirds of the amount that would have been allowed had she been represented by a lawyer. The claim for costs was unjustifiable and disproportionate in amount. The Appeal had occupied less than half a day of Court time and turned on a short issue as to the Judge’s assessment of damages, in respect of which the only work of any value that was performed was done by Mr de Waal who acted as Ms Grand’s Counsel pro bono. Moreover, Mr Gill had already been ordered to pay costs in respect of a proportion of Mr de Waal’s time.

Ms Grand had brought the Appeal before the Court and should be fairly compensated for her time and disbursements reasonably incurred in doing so. She should however only be compensated for that part of her efforts that could be regarded as fairly referable to the issues on which she ultimately succeeded. Mr Gill should not have to compensate her for work that she did or expenditure that she incurred in bringing the Appeal that was misdirected or wasted.

The Appellant’s Notice contained 11 grounds of Appeal and permission was given in respect of two of them. The grounds of Appeal raised another 10 grounds in respect of which she neither sought nor obtained permission to Appeal. Her skeleton argument was valueless. She ought to be entitled in principle to the costs of obtaining a transcript of the Judge’s Judgment; a small proportion of the costs of the preparation of her Appellant’s Notice, grounds of Appeal and skeleton argument; a fair reimbursement for the costs of preparing and copying bundles for the Court, although the amount allowed needed to be reduced given that they contained much irrelevant material; a reasonable sum for time expended in researching how to process her Appeal; and a sum for her disbursements reasonably incurred in processing it. Time allowed for attending on an unknown Barrister, presumably for advice or assistance would not be allowed. Nor would her time spent in respect of travelling to and attending Advice Bureaus, on the basis that there was no explanation of the precise purpose of the activity or any evidence that it had achieved any benefit in relation to the two issues argued at the Appeal. In all Ms Grand would be awarded an Order for costs in the sum of £703.77, with no Order for the payment of interest.

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