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Summary assessment and the relevance of the precedent H Costs Budget (Goodram & Anor v Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd)

In the case of Goodram & Anor v Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd [2020] EWHC 2499 (QB) Senior Master Fontaine granted the Defendant summary judgment. The Claimants were seeking to enforce a lottery win, which the Defendant had refused to pay, based on suspicions that the scratch cards had been purchased by an unauthorised means. The Master found that the Defendant had good grounds not to pay the Claimants and consequently ordered that the Claimants pay the Defendant’s costs.

The Claimants had conceded that Camelot was entitled, as a matter of principle, to its costs of both the application and proceedings. The Claimants requested that the costs be summarily assessed under CPR 44.6, which the Defendant was content for the Court to do so.

The Claimants considered that the Defendant’s claim of £18,255 for the cost of the application was too high and argued that their costs should be limited to the £10,000, which was the amount approved in the precedent H costs budget.

The Defendant reminded the Master that the costs of the application included the costs of the hearing on 9th of July 2020, which was not anticipated in the approved costs budget.

The Court then turned its attention to the costs of the proceedings, with the Claimants noting that the Defendant’s approved costs in the precedent H were £68,000 in total. Once the costs of the phases that had not been commenced were removed, that left a balance of approximately £28,000, the Defendant reached a similar figure of £27,006, both exclusive of VAT. This included incurred costs, which of course had not been subjected to the scrutiny of the Court.

Arguments ensued regarding incurred costs, with the Claimants arguing that the pre-action costs were not recoverable. They submitted that this was work that Camelot was duty bound to do under the terms of its licence to operate the national lottery. They also contended that the costs for the issues/statements of case phase were excessive, claiming that the documents were neither lengthy nor complicated. They requested that the court adopt a broad-brush approach and that the collective costs for those two phases, which were £8,025 for pre-action and £11,475 for statements of case, should be reduced to £10,000. The Defendant disputed the Claimants’ contentions.

The Court reviewed the position and referred to the list of factors which the Court will have regard to when assessing costs, as well as the need to consider proportionality.

The Master recognised that it was a high value claim, £4m, and that it was of considerable importance to both parties. She accepted that it was not a straightforward claim.

When determining the amounts to allow for the application, the Master placed reliance on the amount of £10,000 that had been approved in the costs budget. She accepted that the amount claimed included two hearings, rather than one hearing which the costs budget had anticipated, and the approved amounts were based upon. The Master allowed the costs in full deeming them “entirely reasonable and proportionate for the work involved.”

This highlights the importance of well scoped out assumptions, as this allowed the Master to have a full understanding of what the approved costs budget was based upon.

The Master followed the same approach that she had adopted during her assessment of the application costs, to the costs of the proceedings. She refused to accept the Claimants argument that the Defendant was not entitled to the pre-action costs and ruled that these were reasonable and proportionate, and allowed the amount that had been claimed in the costs budget in full.

In terms of the costs in relation to issues/statement of case, the Master found that the sum claimed was reasonable and proportionate for the work done, taking into account the value of the claim and the complexity of the legal issues raised. She allowed the full amount of £27,006 plus VAT that was claimed in the budget for that phase.

The Court, in this instance, placed a heavy reliance on the costs budget when determining a reasonable and proportionate amount to order. The Defendants were content for the costs budget to be relied upon in relation to their costs of the proceedings, and this approach removed the requirement for a detailed assessment. This further highlights the importance of a fully scoped costs budget.

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 19 January 2021

Author – Sue Fox

 

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