Recovering inquest costs in subsequent civil proceedings is often difficult with many Defendants relying on the decision in “Roach v Home Office” [2010} QB 256 and “Lynch v Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police”  Inquest LR 247 in seeking to limit the recoverability of the costs as part of costs of any subsequent proceedings.
However, every case must turn on its own facts as was recognised by Davis J in Roach whereby he confirmed that it “remains a matter for the costs judge’s evaluation and assessment to decide what amount of costs (if any) are allowable as costs of and incidental to the civil proceedings” as well as in Lynch where Master Rowley found that the extent of the recoverability of the costs “depends upon the specific facts of the case”.
Whilst the Court only allowed half of the inquest costs in Roach, it must be noted that in Roach there was a pre-inquest admission of liability.
What therefore in cases where there was no admission of liability prior to an inquest and evidence obtained at an inquest results in an early settlement of consequent civil proceedings? This issue was considered in the decision of “Fullick v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis”  Costs LR 1231. At first instance, Deputy Master Keens found that the pre-inquest reviews were “instrumental in a number of different ways in getting [the Claimant’s] own pathology evidence heard at the inquest, [and] in compelling certain police witnesses to attend”. He further ruled that the inquest “went a lot further than evidence gathering … very largely determining the issues and that is why settlement was capable of being reached without the civil proceedings having really needing to be progressed”.
The Defendant appealed the decision on the basis of proportionality and contended that the costs of the inquest were not incidental to the claim.
The Honourable Mrs Justice Slade reiterated the decision in “Re Gibson’s Settlement Trusts” as to the factors to be considered when assessing whether inquest costs were incidental to the civil proceedings (which in itself took reliance upon Section 51 of the Senior Courts Act 1981). Those factors were whether the prior steps were of use and service in the proceedings, were of relevance to an issue and attributable to the defendant. The appeal was determined in the Claimant’s favour with it being found that Deputy Master Keens decision had been reasonable.
Another common dispute in such claims is that subsequent proceedings were settled absent proceedings being issued in the civil proceedings and occasionally high inquest costs were therefore disproportionate to the issues. As was pointed out in both “Roach” and “Fullick”, the findings reached within the inquest proceedings assisted the relatively speedy compromises of the civil proceedings which is another factor which must be considered when considering the issue of proportionality.
As can be seen, this remains a contentious area of law and whilst some guidance can be obtained from the numerous decisions, unfortunately for clarity the words of Davis J in Roach remain applicable in that it “remains a matter for the costs judge’s evaluation and assessment to decide what amount of costs (if any) are allowable as costs of and incidental to the civil proceedings”