News in brief – 22.10.2020

Commercial court judges deliver warning over inaccurate time estimates

The judges in charge of the Commercial Court and the London Circuit Commercial Court have issued a notice to express their concern about the increase in both courts in the number of applications and trials with inaccurate reading and hearing time estimates.

Mrs Justice Cockerill and His Honour Judge Pelling QC said there was a particular problem with applications that are estimated for half a day. “Half a day is strictly 2.5 hours inclusive of a judgment and costs arguments,” they pointed out, and so submissions need to be capable of being completed within a maximum of two hours.

“Inaccurate hearing estimates may result in a case being stood out of the list and relisted for a realistic time estimate with no expedition of the relisting. There may also be costs consequences,” they said.


Court of Appeal judge laments difficulty of summary assessment on papers

A newly appointed Court of Appeal judge has highlighted the difficulty of conducting summary assessments on the papers, after a challenge was made to the level of counsel’s fees claimed by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which succeeded in an interlocutory hearing involved Sports Direct.

In Financial Reporting Council Ltd v Frasers Group PLC [2020] EWHC 2656 (Ch), the FRC sought £26,475 plus VAT for the two counsel, of which only £3,375 were their costs of the hearing.

Lord Justice Nugee – who was elevated to the appeal court this month – said: “This submission illustrates a disadvantage of conducting a summary assessment without a hearing, which is that the court often has very little material to go on and can do no more than apply its accumulated experience to its knowledge of the case.

“On their own, I can see why it is said that these figures, unexplained as they are, seem high for a case where no evidence was filed on behalf of the FRC.”

But he decided that this would be to ignore the fact that the brief fees were very low. “I infer that that means that all the preparation of the case (reading in, legal research, thinking time, formulating the arguments) has been charged as advice, conference and documents. Had all these matters been rolled into the brief fees, as they could have been (and probably would have been in former times), the brief fees would have been £17,575 and £8,900 respectively.

“Those do not seem to me to be excessive, or even particularly high for a hearing of this complexity. I consider that they are both reasonable and proportionate.”


Court of Protection judge issues guidance on claims exceeding fixed-rate regime

The senior judge of the Court of Protection has issued guidance to deputies where they seek to claim costs that exceed the fixed-rate regime for cases where the protected person’s assets are less than £16,000.

Commenting at the end of one such case, Penntrust Ltd v West Berkshire District Council and Anor [2020] EWCOP 48, Her Honour Judge Hilder said it was not a common occurrence, but they did happen.

“In order to avoid the need for proceedings of this type in the future, where a deputy is appointed in respect of such an estate but with authority to seek SCCO assessment of their costs, the authorisation should explicitly state that it applies in the context of such an estate.

“If those are the circumstances when the appointment is made but the order does not explicitly confirm it, the deputy should make an application for clarification promptly upon the order being issued.”

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Costs News
Published date
21 Oct 2020

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