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Bill of Costs must be transparent, or face the risk of strike out - Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust v AKC

In Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust v AKC [2021] EWHC 2607 (QB) (29 September 2021) the court granted permission to appeal a previous order that dismissed the appellant’s application to strike out the respondent’s bill of costs, for non-compliance with the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). Further, the Appellant sought an order that the respondent be required to serve a CPR compliant bill of costs.

There were three grounds of appeal: (1) the bill was not properly certified because the signatory was not identifiable; (2) the paper bill failed to properly provide the name and status for each fee earner and to identify the work done by each fee earner, contrary to the requirements of CPR Part 47; (3) the electronic bill failed to properly give the name, the SCCO grade, the date from which rates were effective for each fee earner and to identify the work done by each fee earner contrary to the requirement of CPR Part 47; and failed to provide other particulars required.

Although the bill was signed, it failed to provide the details of the identity and status of the signatory, simply stating that they were a “Partner in the firm of Irwin Mitchell LLP”, moreover the signature was illegible. Mr Justice Steyn DBE commented that:

“While identifying the signatory as an unnamed solicitor of a specified firm would be inadequate, in this case it is not even clear that the bill of costs has been certified by a solicitor”.

He further commented that:

“I reject the respondent’s submission that the remedy sought is Draconian. The effect of the order sought is to require the respondent to re-submit the bill of costs, amended to remedy any defects the Court finds. As far as this first ground is concerned, the only amendment required is to provide a fresh signed certificate, clearly identifying the solicitor who is the signatory. It will take very little effort to make such an amendment. Indeed, given how little effort or cost it would have taken to have provided the name of the signatory for which the appellant asked in November 2019, I confess to some astonishment that the respondent chose instead to withhold the information and argue the point. As Henry LJ observed in Bailey v IBC Vehicles, “an ounce of openness is cheaper than any argument”.

Grounds 2 and 3 were closely linked and related to the provision of information regarding the name and status of the fee earner, as well as the identification of the work undertaken by each fee earner. The purpose of the bill of costs is to provide transparency, this was the cornerstone of the Jackson Reforms. The Court found that to allow this lack of transparency and in turn functionality, would undermine the intended benefits of the reforms. Consequently, the Respondent was required to serve an amended bill of costs.

If you require any assistance with your legal costs requirements, please do get in touch with the team on 01733 350 880, or by email mail@aandmbacon.co.uk. For more information please do visit our website www.aandmbacon.co.uk.

Published 2 December 2021

Author – Sue Fox

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