COUNSEL’S FEES NOT RECOVERABLE UNDER FIXED COSTS REGIME WHERE CASE SETTLED DAY BEFORE HEARING

I am grateful to barrister Sarah Robson for sending me a copy of the decision of Master Haworth in Coleman -v- Townsend [SCC Senior Court Costs Office 13th July 2020). A copy of which is available here Final Judgment Coleman v Townsend .  The Master held that counsel’s brief fee, and skeleton argument costs, were not recoverable under the fixed costs regime in a case where the case settled the day before the hearing.

THE CASE

Counsel’s abated brief fee for trial of £852.00 and skeleton argument at £370 were allowed on a provisional assessment. The matter settled the day prior to the trial date.  Costs were to be assessed in line with PART 45 CPR. The defendant sought a review of the order that counsel’s fees were recoverable.

THE JUDGMENT

The Master held that counsel’s fees were not recoverable under the fixed costs regime.

“I prefer the submissions of the Appellant/Defendant to those of the Respondent/Claimant. The costs in Table 6B set out the recoverable costs for each stage of the claim which no longer continues under the RTA Protocol and include all the work which could reasonably be expected to be carried out for each stage. In relation to Table C that specifically includes the trial advocacy fee and implicitly the costs of preparing for
the trial which self-evidently would include a skeleton argument. That stage was not reached in this case. The day of the trial was not yet at hand. It follows that both the claim for the preparation of the skeleton argument and an abated brief fee fall within Table B, which includes all work “on or after the day of listing, but prior to the date of trial
“I am not persuaded by the Respondent’s arguments that Aldred has no application in this case and that these disbursements fall squarely within CPR45.29I(2)(h) where the Court can allow any other disbursement incurred due to the particular feature of the dispute, in other words some particular characteristic of the claim rather than the Claimant. I do not accept the Respondent’s argument that these  disbursements by way of Counsel’s fees were either properly or reasonably incurred. It follows that the appeal succeeds. Both Counsel’s abated brief fee and the fee for the preparation of the skeleton argument are disallowed.”