JUDGMENT ON ADMISSIONS ONLY AVAILABLE WHERE LIABILITY TO PAY DAMAGES IS ADMITTED: INTERIM COSTS ORDERS REQUIRE SCHEDULES TO BE AT COURT: LESSONS FROM THE GRENFELL LITIGATION
In Abdel-Kader & Ors v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea & Ors  EWHC 2006 (QB)Senior Master Fontaine considered the basis for applying for judgment and interim costs. The claimants had not identified the basis upon which judgment was being sought. The judgment makes it clear that judgment on admissions can only be entered when there is admission of both liability and that damages have been suffered.
A large number of claimants are bringing actions against a large number of defendants following the Grenfell Towers fire. Some of the claimants (described as the “BLJ claimants” made an application for judgment on the basis that the defendants had admitted liability.
THE APPLICATION FOR JUDGMENT
The Master pointed out that the applications for judgment did not state the basis upon which judgment was sought. It had to be an application for judgment on admissions. However for some of the claimants this caused difficulty because the defendant had not admitted that any damages had been sustained. This meant that the application could only succeed for those claimants where damages had been admitted. Further the fact that interim payments had been made to some claimants where damages had not been admitted did not, in itself, constitute a ground for entering judgment.
BLJ’s application does not identify on what basis the application for judgment has been made, but it is presumed to be an application for judgment on admissions under CPR 14.3, although the submissions in support are tantamount to a summary judgment application. Judgment cannot be entered in reliance on an admission pursuant to CPR 14.3 unless the admission constitutes a complete cause of action: Parrott v Jackson  PIQR P394 at P399; commentary in the White Book 2022 Vol I para 14.3.4. The principle is summarised in Charlesworth and Percy on Negligence at para. 1-29:
“Breach of a duty of care only becomes actionable if accompanied by proof of actual damage. There is no right of action for nominal damages. As Lord Reading CJ said:” negligence alone does not give a cause of action, damage alone does not give a cause of action; The two must co-exist.” Accordingly a bare admission of negligence by a defendant is not necessarily an admission of liability. For instance, a claimant will presumably have to show that each element in a cause of action, including actual damage, is admitted, before being able to enter judgment under Pt 14.3 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1999.” AB 32/263
By 22 April 2022 only 20 medical reports had been received in respect of the BLJ Claimants out of the total cohort of 85 claims (although now 24 in total have been served). In a letter dated 22 March 2022 RBKC stated that “In certain cases, our clients will, of necessity, be required to reserve their position on causation, especially in claims where no medical evidence has been served.”
RBKC have made a complete admission in the nine claims where they are satisfied not only a duty of care was owed but also some loss or damage caused, taking account of the evidence available to them at the time of making the admissions. However, it is submitted that BLJ cannot obtain judgment in the other 44 claims where entry of judgment is sought where no admission of causation of loss has been made. Where a claim is made for a psychiatric injury there can be no completed claim unless a recognised injury is suffered, and a medical report would be required to support such a claim. In any event, until medical reports are received it will not be known whether the medical report supports causation in any particular claim. Further the schedules of loss served are incomplete, include ‘TBC’ items and have not generally been signed by the claimants themselves (but instead have been signed by the Claimants’ solicitors).
With regard to the submission by BLJ that it has been recognised that some loss has occurred because a payment on account of damages has been made in the sum of £514,210 (see Hill 7 §14.11.7 HB 91/1608), this was a voluntary payment in respect of property damage, and in order to obtain judgment for loss of or damage to property the BLJ Claimants would have to prove that the sums due were more than the amount paid by RBKC.
It is correct that BLJ’s application notice does not identify the basis on which judgment is sought for the 53 claims where admissions have been made, and although leading Counsel also did not identify this in her submissions there was no dissent voiced to RBKC’s submission that the application could only be made under CPR 14.3, and I agree with that submission.
RBKC’s submissions are in my view a complete answer to the application in respect of the 44 claims where entry of judgment is opposed. It is clear from BLJ’s letter dated 30 March 2022 to RBKC’s solicitors DWF HB 69/1303 where BLJ say: “… your admission is limited and silent as to the liability of your clients for the spread of the fire and the causation of our clients’ losses.” that BLJ were aware that there was no admission in respect of causation and loss in respect of these claims.
RBKC have stated in open court that the interim payments were not made with an admission of liability, but were payments made at RBKC’s own risk. The claims for damages for personal injury will not be complete until medical reports have been served pursuant to CPR 16PD para. 4.3. Although more than nine medical reports have been served, a judgment on admissions cannot be entered unless the admission constitutes a complete cause of action: see Parrott v Jackson and Charlesworth and Percy on Negligence at para. 1-29 AB 32/263 cited at Paragraph 12 above.
Accordingly, for the reasons advanced by RBKC I conclude that the application for entry of judgment fails save for the nine claims where RBKC have agreed to enter judgment.
I note RBKC’s confirmation that they will continue to consider whether entry of judgment can be conceded as evidence is provided which will enable them to admit causation and loss. I note also that RBKC have also settled eight claims so far, 5 made by litigants in person and 3 claims brought where Anthony Gold solicitors where acting. I consider that it would be appropriate to exclude from the stay, in claims where admissions of breach of duty of care have been made, the ability of BLJ to provide further medical evidence and other evidence to supplement the schedules of loss and to support causation and loss, and where full admissions of liability can then be made, for the entry of judgment on admissions.
THE APPLICATION FOR AN INTERIM ORDER FOR COSTS
The Master then considered an application for an interim order for costs for those claimants who had been successful in applying for judgment. The claimants had not provided any schedule of costs. The issue was therefore deferred.