Court of Appeal confirm that the costs of case management meetings are recoverable

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10 April, 2024

Claire Opacic

In March, the Court of Appeal confirmed, in the decision of Hadley v Przybylo [2024] EWCA Civ 250, that solicitors can seek to recover the costs of attending case management meetings though the precise amount to be recovered would depend on the individual case. As such the court declined to set specific rules on the same, leaving it to be addressed as part of any detailed assessment.

In catastrophic injury claims case management meetings can often take place with multiple professionals to address a claimant's rehabilitation needs, as well as with Court of Protection deputies in respect of financial matters.

In this matter the claimant had been significantly injured in a road traffic accident, and he had been left with a permanent brain injury. His personal injury claim was settled between the parties for a lump sum of £5.6 million, with further annual payment of £170,000 for his case and care management. There was however a continuing dispute over his costs. At the costs management hearing for the claim, held before the settlement, the master concluded that fee earner attendance at case management meetings did not fall into recoverable costs as the costs incurred would not be progressive of the litigation. That decision was appealed by the Claimant and was addressed by the Court of Appeal after the main action had settled, save as to costs.

The issues to be determined were whether the costs of attending rehabilitation case management meetings were recoverable in principle; and, if so, whether there were any limits to be placed on recoverability.

Upon considering the case, the Court of Appeal concluded that the master had gone further than just exercising her discretion as to reasonableness and proportionality in formulating her judgment in the way that she did, with her language suggesting that she considered herself to have decided a point of principle. The principle that a party could recover the "costs of and incidental to the proceedings", within the Senior Courts Act 1981 Pt II s.51(1), indicated a broad discretion. It was confirmed that in order to be recoverable, costs had to relate to something which proved of use and service in the action, was relevant to an issue and was attributed to the defendant's conduct giving rise to the cause of action, Gibson's Settlement Trusts, Re [1981] Ch. 179, [1980] 5 WLUK 122 followed.

The Guide to the Conduct of Cases Involving Serious Injury referred to the need for collaboration regarding rehabilitation. The Rehabilitation Code 2015 identified the specific obligations imposed on the claimant's solicitor, including considering whether additional medical or rehabilitative intervention would improve the claimant's physical and mental wellbeing. Paragraph 7.5 of the Rehabilitation Code stated that, with catastrophic injuries, it was especially important to achieve good early communication between the parties, normally involving meetings. In certain cases, attendance at multi-disciplinary team meetings might therefore be reasonable. The appellant's solicitor's involvement in his rehabilitation had been beneficial to both parties in agreeing a settlement. The costs were therefore recoverable in principle, subject to reasonableness and proportionality. The figures put forward by the appellant were however open to challenge and would be the subject of detailed assessment by the costs judge.

Forbes comment - Given that the total costs claimed for this particular issue were noted by the Court to be over £130,000 in this matter, it is not perhaps surprising that the Defendant sought to challenge the same. The Court of Appeal conceded that the exact figures claimed were clearly open to challenge and seemed to go well beyond the usual costs of reasonable liaison with case managers and deputies. That said they were not prepared to decide that the costs of the solicitors' attendance at rehabilitation case management meetings are always irrecoverable as the solicitor involvement could sometimes benefit the action. Equally, however it would be wrong for the claimant's solicitor to assume that routine attendance at such meetings will always be recoverable. It will always depend on the facts. Careful consideration will therefore need to be given as to the agenda for any case management meeting and the benefit the fee earner would bring to the same in order to assess if that cost would be recoverable.

For more information contact Claire Opacic in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01618308817. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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