A much anticipated Court of Appeal ruling has been made public today where it upheld a stringent judgment in a landmark case which establishes the court’s post-Jackson hardline approach to costs budgeting.
In a judgment released this morning, the court refused relief from sanctions to the firm representing Andrew Mitchell in his libel action over The Sun’s ‘plebgate’ story.
Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said that overturning the appeal would be a ‘major setback’ to the change in culture envisaged in the Jackson reforms.
He added that any relief from sanctions ‘would give rise to uncertainty and complexity and stimulate satellite litigation’.
The firm in question has had its budget limited to court fees alone after failing to submit a figure seven days before the first case management conference.
In effect, the ruling meant that even if the former chief whip wins his libel case, The Sun would not have to pay his legal fees.
The Court of Appeal today said that ruling was correct and dismissed the appeal.
Lord Dyson admitted the claimant’s solicitors ‘had been ‘stretched very thin in terms of resources’ but he decided to refuse relief on the grounds these problems were not unusual.
The judgment said: ‘The defaults by the claimant’s solicitors were not minor or trivial and there was no good excuse for them.
They resulted in an abortive costs budgeting hearing and an adjournment which has serious consequences for other litigants.
‘Although it seems harsh in the individual case of Mr Mitchell’s claim, if we were to overturn the decision to refuse relief, it is inevitable that the attempt to achieve a change in culture would receive a major setback.’
The case is seen as a definitive guide to the court’s new approach to costs budgeting following the Jackson reforms which came into force last April.
Many firms involved in litigation will be concerned at the court’s strict approach to non-compliance with costs rules, but others will be pleased at least to have certainty about where they stand.
Elliot Mocton, Solicitor and Director of MRN said: ‘This judgment highlights more than ever the necessity for solicitors to be aware of potential pitfalls and establish firm relationships with their costs lawyers.
‘Compliance with the rules and court timetables is critical and solicitors can no longer be complacent when it comes to costs budgeting.’
For the full judgement Click Here