TALES FROM THE APIL CONFERENCE I: TO AVOID “AGREEMENT” OF COSTS BUDGETS BY DEFAULT READ DIRECTIONS FOR THE CCMC WITH CONSIDERABLE CARE
I am doing a series of posts on matters arising from the APIL annual conference. I am not aiming to cover all the issues and matters raised. People can (and should) read the Presidents speech . Given the nature of this blog I am concentrating upon procedural issues of direct relevance to practitioners. Here I want to look at the dangers posed by directions made in some courts. The directions give rise to profound consequences for failing to file a costs budget discussion report (or its equivalent). The practice is not universal. However it means that practitioners have to read directions very carefully.
SERVING PRECEDENT R
Master Roberts and District Judge Besford spoke at the conference on the costs budgeting process. Over time costs budgeting was becoming easier and more streamlined. Precedent R, the budget discussion report, had been particularly helpful.
THE PRACTICE OF SOME COURTS
I have seen (and have direct experience) of some courts sending out directions for the CCMC which included the following wording.
“The parties shall seek to agree the costs budgets. If any party wishes to challenge the budgeted costs of an opponent, they must file and serve not less than 3 days before the hearing a written statement setting out which stages(s) (if any) of the budget is contested, why, and what is said to be the appropriate figure. In default any budget or stage thereof not so challenged shall be deemed to be agreed.”
THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO COMPLY
If a party fails to comply the consequences are simple. Their opponent’s budget is deemed to be agreed. If the errant party wants to dispute the budget then relief from sanctions is required.
THE PRACTICAL RESULT
I asked, at the conference, whether this was a widespread practice. Apparently it is not. However this makes life even more difficult for practitioners. Parties should be discussing the budget and using Form R in any event. However in some court centres a failure to file a formal dispute to the budget (with reasons) can lead to the budget being “agreed” by default.