News in brief – 25.03.2021

Family judge warns litigants of costs penalty for not negotiating

Litigants must learn that they will suffer a cost penalty if they do not negotiate openly and reasonably, a Family Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Mostyn was ruling in LM v DM (Costs Ruling) [2021] EWFC 28. The proceedings – for maintenance pending suit, interim periodical payments for the children and a legal services payment order – were not governed by the “no-order-for-costs general rule in FPR rule 28.3(5)”, he noted.

“They are governed instead by a soft costs-follow-the-event principle. Calderbank offers are admissible, although none was made in this case by either side. The obligation to negotiate openly and reasonably is especially important in interim applications, which ought to be pragmatically settled in circumstances where, by definition, they do not make a final determination of the parties’ positions.

“This obligation to negotiate clearly applies to these interim proceedings notwithstanding that PD 28A para 4.4 technically applies only to rule 28.3 cases.”

Mostyn J said that, though the outcome was “clearly a win” for the applicant, she made no serious attempt to negotiate “openly and reasonably” beyond setting out her in-court forensic position in her witness statements.

“My impression was that the applicant was determined to fight the application come what may,” he said. “Litigants must learn that they will suffer a cost penalty if they do not negotiate openly and reasonably.”

As a result, he ordered that the respondent should only pay 50% of her costs.


Court can make wasted costs order in absence of costs budget

Where parties had failed to file costs budgets as ordered and were therefore limited to claiming court fees, a judge had erred in concluding that he had no jurisdiction to make a costs order in respect of wasted costs of an aborted trial, the High Court has ruled.

According to a Lawtel summary of Mr Justice Marcus Smith’s ruling last week in Pasricha v Pasricha, the court had a discretion to order costs under rule 3.14 if there was a material change, and under rule 3.18 if there was good reason to do so.

However, the aborted trial had been caused by the unexpected unavailability of the judge, and the appropriate order was no order for costs.


Lawyers set to unite for return of Legal Walks this summer

The 2021 summer Legal Walks will return to the usual in-person format – government guidelines permitting – with walks taking place in cities across England, including Northampton, Oxford, Sheffield, Carlisle, Doncaster, Reading, Brighton and more.

Legal Walks in Scotland, Wales and other major cities across England, including the London, Manchester and Birmingham Legal Walks, will take place in the autumn. London will take place on 18 October.

The walks in 2019 raised more than £1m for the specialist advice charities, but the majority of walks last year had to be postponed due to Covid-19.

Laura Cassidy, fundraising and development manager at the Access to Justice Foundation – which organises the walks in conjunction with local legal support trusts and committees – said: “Prior to the pandemic, funding for the free legal advice sector was already lacking. Covid-19 has been devastating for the sector, placing an almost impossible strain on advice services which are at breaking point. Without these services, thousands of people across the UK will be unable to obtain justice.

“The legal community knows more than most about the pressure put on the sector and we know they are passionate about advocating for better services to reach those most in need. The Legal Walks are a great opportunity to raise money and awareness for these services and we look forward to walking side-by-side with the legal community once again.”

For information or to register for the Legal Walks taking place in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, the East of England, the Midlands, the South West, Wales or Scotland, visit here. For the walks in the South East of England, visit here, and for London here.

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Costs News
Published date
24 Mar 2021

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