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Christopher Charman v John Reilly (Civil Engineering) Ltd

6 September 2013
Costs incurred when the task of obtaining Medical Reports is sent out to medical agencies
  • The court was required in conjoined cases to assess the amount payable for medical fee reports in three unrelated personal injury claims.
  • The claimants (C) had been involved in road traffic accidents each with a value of more than £1,000, but no more than £10,000. Medical evidence was required to substantiate the claims for personal injury. The common features in the cases were that C had been represented by the same firm of solicitors, the medical agency employed by those solicitors was the same and the fee charged to the solicitors by the medical agency for the medical report was £350 plus VAT of £70 bringing the total to £420. The costs, other than the medical fee report, had been agreed by the defendants in all cases. The issues were the amount of the medical report fee to be awarded to C and as a subsidiary point, whether C should be compelled to disclose information giving a breakdown between the medical expert fee and the charges of the medical agency.
  • The defendants submitted that the determination of a reasonable and proportionate sum for the medical report could not be achieved absent C’s disclosure of a breakdown between the medical expert’s fee and, if any, charged by the medical agency for production and dispatch of the report.
Held:
  •  Solicitors who on behalf of their clients delegated to medical agencies the task of obtaining medical reports did not necessarily absolve themselves of the responsibility to assist the court to ascertain whether the costs incurred, and which they sought to recover from defendants, were reasonable and proportionate.
  • Invoices of medical agencies should distinguish between the medical fee and their own charges, the latter being sufficiently particularised to enable the cost officer to be satisfied that they did not exceed the reasonable and proportionate cost of the solicitors doing the work.
  • The court’s attempt to assess the costs of the work carried out in obtaining the medical reports had been frustrated by C’s or C’s solicitors’ refusal to provide the necessary information. Against that background the court had to assess what was reasonable and proportionate for the defendants to pay. The defendants were not party to the agreement between the solicitors and the medical agency; they were entitled to ask reasonable questions as to how the costs they were asked to pay had been arrived at.
  • The fixed price agreement reached by the signatories to the agreement was not the appropriate measure of a reasonable and proportionate charge. The parties chose to be signatories of the agreement; there were no good reasons for those terms to be imposed on non-parties.
  • It was reasonable and proportionate for C to instruct a medical agency to provide medical reports. In relation to fairly straightforward low value claims where medical records were not required, and where there was a ready panel of willing specialists available, where standard letters might be used to notify the claimant and the solicitor of the medical appointment and having regard to the use of a standard process for high-volume work, the court assessed the cost of a reasonably experienced and competent medical agency to carry out the work to obtain the medical report at £50 plus VAT, where applicable. In the absence of any information to assist the court, the cost payable to the agency for the medical report was assessed at £150. In total the medical agency charges were assessed at £200 with VAT, if applicable

C’s stance had presented the court with a time consuming task. The court found no reasonable basis for C’s refusal to provide the paying party with the further information sought. Solicitors had to first disclose their client’s obligations under the CPR to medical agencies before confirming any agreement for services with that agency. That might obviate any embarrassment, if later, that agency refused to disclose the information on how its charges were compiled. It would not be reasonable or proportionate for further costs to be incurred in prosecuting the request for information. However, in the circumstances, it was a reasonable to serve the request.

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