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10 March 2022
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Regional costs judge strikes out “broad-brush” points of dispute

A regional costs judge has struck out points of dispute (PoDs) over “an abject failure” by the paying party to particularise its objections.

Deputy District Judge Harris in Manchester also found good reason for the receiving party to have exceeded its budget.

His decision in Tudor v Dean & Anr was issued last year but the transcript has only recently been received by the claimant’s Costs Lawyer, Nicholas Lee of Paragon Legal Costs in Bristol.

Three of the PoDs challenged the costs claimed for the pre-action, issue/statement of case and CMC phases.

In response, the receiving party complained that the PoDs made no attempt to identify the specific items in or outline the nature of the grounds of dispute. He put the respondents on notice that he would seek to have them struck out.

DDJ Harris said: “The question is, have the respondents done enough in their points of dispute? I am satisfied that they have not. They were even put on notice as to the shortcomings of the points of dispute and the replies. Still they did nothing.

“A party has the right to know the case they have to answer. That has only been addressed by broad-brush replies. Such responses are completely unhelpful, particularly in a case where the amounts involved are of such importance to the claimant.”

Citing the Court of Appeal’s 2020 ruling in Ainsworth v Stewarts Law, he went on: “General points and matters of principle which require consideration before individual items in the bill are addressed should be identified, and the specific points made stating concisely the nature of the grounds of dispute. This has not been done…

“Common sense dictates that the points of dispute must be drafted in a way which enable the parties and the court to determine what is in dispute and why. That is the very purpose of such a document.

“It is necessary in order to enable the receiving party to be able to reply to the complaint. It is also necessary in order to enable the court to deal with the issues raised in a manner which is fair, just and proportionate.”

Striking out the three PoDs, the judge said: “There has been an abject failure in this matter by the respondent to comply with this requirement.”

He then considered the near-£100,000 overspend on the budget in three phases. Without going into the detail, DDJ Harris said he was “persuaded that the facts of the witness statements and the submissions, as well as the documents, show there was good reason to exceed the budget, but not by as much as is claimed in each phase”.

He asked the parties to negotiate on the figures and return to him if they were unable to reach agreement.

Mr Lee said: “This decision highlights the importance of proper compliance with the rules and the consequence for failing to do so.

“It also provides a helpful example of circumstances where the court will allow a departure from the budget on the basis of good reason. There are very few reported examples in this regard.”

Nicholas Lee appeared on behalf of the petitioner. Richard Wilcock, instructed by Christopher Jones, appeared on behalf of the first respondent.

Comments

Dragon   10/03/2022 at 13:15

Good. Just hope receiving parties will stop complaining about more detailed points of dispute not being "concise" and how they "increase costs". A decision on the application of the standard basis next, please - that oft ignored basis where doubt is settled in favour of the PAYING party.

SARAHJ   15/03/2022 at 18:37

Dragon, 100% agree

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