Electronic copies of the bill should not be filed at court when notice of commencement is served on the paying party, the Senior Costs Judge has told the ACL.
Council member Claire Green, who has been leading the association’s work on the new format bill, asked Andrew Gordon-Saker (pictured) for his views given confusion arising from the apparent tension between paragraphs 5.A4 and 5.1A of practice direction 47.
5.A4 provides: “Where a bill of costs otherwise falls within paragraph 5.1(a) but work was done both before and after the Transition Date, a party may serve and file either a paper bill or an electronic bill in respect of work done before that date and must serve and file an electronic bill in respect of work done after that date.” (Emphasis added.)
5.1A says: “Whenever electronic bills are served or filed at the court, they must also be served or filed in hard copy, in a manageable paper format as shown in the PDF version of Precedent S. A copy of the full electronic spreadsheet version must at the same time be provided to the paying party and filed at the court by email or other electronic means.” (Emphasis added.)
Ms Green said this has led to questions on whether it was necessary to file an electronic bill at court at the point that the bill is served on the paying party, at the N252 notice of commencement stage or, as is currently the case, when a hearing is requested by filing an N258 request for assessment and a fee paid.
Stressing that this was just his personal view, Master Gordon-Saker said: “Electronic copies of the bill should not be filed at court when notice of commencement is served on the paying party. It is fair to say that you are not the first person to raise this, but for my part I think that the answer is tolerably clear.
“PD 47 paragraph 5.2 continues to prescribe what should happen when the receiving party commences detailed assessment proceedings. There is nothing there about sending things to the court.
“Paragraph 13.2 prescribes what should be filed at court when a detailed assessment hearing is requested.
“Paragraph 5.1A simply provides that when you serve or file an electronic bill you must serve or file a paper version. Whenever you serve or file an electronic bill, you have to provide the full electronic spreadsheet version by email or other electronic means.
“The second sentence does not require the receiving party to file an electronic bill when it serves it; it merely indicates the means by which you serve/file the spreadsheet version.
“Paragraph 5.A4 provides that when work is done before and after the transition date, you must serve/file an electronic bill for the work done after, but may serve/file either a paper bill or an electronic bill for the work done before.
“As I read them, in none of these provisions is there a requirement to file when you serve (or vice versa).”
The judge said the answer was to start with paragraphs 5.2 and 13.2 “and work backwards”.
But he added: “There may, however, be a case for clarifying the second sentence of paragraph 5.1A if that is what is causing confusion.”