COSTS: THE COSTS OF ATTENDING AN INQUEST: THE APPROPRIATE APPROACH
In Douglas v Ministry of Justice & Anor  EWHC B2 (Costs) Master Leonard considered the issue of the recoverability of costs of attending an inquest. There is a highly nuanced approach. The issues raised are of more general relevance in relation to the application of the Gibson principle.
“... the cost of preparing witness evidence will normally be recoverable as part of the cost of a successful claim even if that claim settles before the witness evidence is ever needed.”
The case concerned a young prisoner who committed suicide in prison in November 2013.Proceedings were issued in November 2014.
Pre-inquest hearings took place in April, July and September 2015. The claimant’s legal team attended and took part in the process in relation to identifying the scope of the inquest.
On the 8th October 2015 the defendants made an open admission of liability, admitting full liability on a joint basis.
The claimant responded with a detailed request on the basis of the admissions. The defendants replied stating that it did not consider it would not state the basis on which the admission was made out, a full admission of liability had been made on the basis of what was in the claim form.
The inquest started on the 12th October 2014 and lasted several weeks. Counsel and solicitors attended to hear the jury’s verdict.
On the 7th March 2016 the claimants accepted an offer from the defendants of £13,500. Particulars of Claim were never served.
THE ISSUE ON ASSESSMENT
The question was whether the defendants were liable for the costs of the inquest (some £85,000).
THE GIBSON PRINCIPLE
The Master considered the relevant principles.
The arguments set out above address the question of recoverability in principle, given that (as is common ground) under the principles identified inRe Gibson’s Settlement Trusts  1 All ER 233, the work for which the Claimant seeks to recover the cost must have been (a) of use and service in the claim; (b) relevant to the matters in issue in the claim; and (c) attributable to the Defendants’ conduct. All three tests must be passed.
41. Mr Whittaker, in submissions, suggested that depending upon the facts of the case the third of the Gibson tests might carry less weight than the others. I am unable to agree: each seems to me to be of equal significance.
The judgment contains a detailed consideration of the legal test and the submissions of both sides. Master Leonard concluded.