Budgeting does not control costs better than detailed assessment, says QB master
Masters and costs judges do not necessarily agree that budgeting controls costs better, or more effectively, than detailed assessment,
Master Davison, who sits in the Queen’s Bench Division, made the comment while following the convention of dispensing with costs budgeting in asbestos list cases, which reflects the fact that the nature of many of the claims means there is insufficient time for the budgeting process.
The defendant argued for budgeting in Smith v W Ford and Sons (Contractors) Ltd  EWHC 1749 (QB), with one of its reasons being a broad assertion of the benefits of budgeting.
In a ruling he said had been approved by all the asbestos masters, Master Davison noted that, in deciding not generally to apply budgeting in asbestos cases, the masters and senior judiciary had considered that the “factors that are generally in favour of costs budgeting were judged to be subordinate to the factors” against it in these particular circumstances.
There was no evidence, he went on, that the process of detailed assessment “is not adequately controlling costs in asbestos cases”.
“If the costs of asbestos cases were placed against the costs incurred in other cases of industrial disease, which have been costs budgeted, I would be surprised if there were much, if indeed any, difference.
“At any rate, if a defendant wishes to displace an important and well-established convention, then it seems to me that it is for that defendant to show, rather than merely assert, that costs in asbestos cases are disproportionate or not adequately controlled.”
Master Davison continued that Queen’s Bench and Chancery masters, as well as costs judges, “do not necessarily share this defendant’s expressed confidence that costs budgeting controls costs better, or more effectively, than detailed assessment”.
He said: “This is a large topic and a complex and somewhat sensitive issue. The present hearing is not, perhaps, the forum to debate it at any length. Suffice it to say that I do not agree with the defendant’s characterisation of this case as presenting a dichotomy between the tight control of costs on the one hand and a free-for-all on the other. That is, in my view, inaccurate.”
He also rejected the argument that as this was a case where the claimant was deceased, there was not the time pressure of other asbestos cases. “We (by ‘we’ I mean the asbestos masters generally) make no distinction on that ground,” he said. “If we did, it would impose its own administrative burden and it would have a profound knock-on effect on living cases.”
The fact that the case was heavily contested did not take the case out of the ordinary, he added.
Stephen Glynn (instructed by Thompsons) on behalf of the claimant. David Platt QC (Instructed by Keoghs) on behalf of the defendant.
Rule committee consults on statement of costs for summary assessment pilot
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee is running an informal, focused consultation as part of its review of the operation of practice direction 51X and the pilot forms N260A and N260B – the new statement of costs for summary assessment pilot, which is running until 31 March 2022, a year longer than originally planned.
The five-question consultation, which closes on 30 July, can be found here.
Two firms top Chambers’ costs rankings
Leeds-based Clarion and Masters Legal Costs Services in London have been listed in band 1 of the costs lawyers section of Chambers Litigation Support 2021 guide, which has just been published. Masters moves up from band 2 last year, swapping places with Clyde & Co.
Also in band 2 are Bolt Burdon Kemp, Civil and Commercial Costs Lawyers (CCCL), Harmans – moving up from band 3 – Kain Knight, Keoghs, and Practico. Band 3 is made up of Croft Solicitors, Irwin Mitchell (a new entry) and Partners in Costs. Burcher Jennings and MRN Solicitors, which were in band 3 last year, are not listed.
The guide also lists seven ‘ranked individuals’: Andrew McAulay of Clarion, Anil Virji of CCCL, Clyde’s Jonathan Shaw, Paul Seddon from Seddon Costs Law and Sam Hayman of Bolt Burdon Kemp were all in it last year, and have been joined by Eversheds Sutherlands’ Glenn Newberry and Keoghs’ Howard Dean.