EX160 Court Fee Remission:

Recovering Court Fees when the Client was Eligible for a Remission

In the recent case Stoney V Allianz Insurance PLC,  the recovery of Court Fees was contested on the basis that the Claimant could have been eligible for an EX160 Court fee remission. The Defendants in the case argued that, as the Claimant was unemployed, they had not attempted to mitigate their losses by failing to apply for a remission.

In our recent blog post, we discussed how contesting fees on this basis was considered incorrect, in practice. We also considered how this was supported by the outcome in Peters v East Midlands Strategic Health Authority [2010] QB 48 and Cook v Malcolm Nicholls based upon similar arguments made in relation to the provision/cost of private care as opposed to relying upon publicly available care free of charge.

The Judge in Stoney however, took a different approach when deciding if the Court fee should be recoverable by the Claimant’s Solicitors.

 

Defendant Solicitors Argument

Although the Defendant agreed that the Court fees were not unreasonable or disproportionate, they argued that the fee was unreasonably incurred because the Claimant could have applied for an EX160 Court fee remission to apply for a fee reduction. As he was unemployed, it was likely that the Claimant would have been able to avoid paying the Court Fee if he was receiving one of the qualifying benefits. The Defendant also referred to how the Courts have traditionally been critical of parties who could have opted for a system, such as the EX160 Court fee remission, which could have incurred lower costs, but instead chose to incur unnecessary higher costs.

 

Claimant Solicitors Argument

The Claimant Solicitors stated that they had agreed to fund all disbursements, including the Court fee, on behalf of the Claimant on the agreement that the Claimant purchased an ATE policy. They therefore argued that, filling in the EX160 Court fee remission form would have been misleading the Court as the Solicitors had made the agreement to fund the Court fee on the Claimant’s behalf, thus the Claimant was not financially unable to fund the Court fee.

The Claimant Solicitors also referred to Peters and maintained that if the Claimant was entitled to claim expenses, which could have otherwise been paid by the state, then the same approach should be taken in regard to costs.

 

Decision of the Judge and Importance of the EX160 Court Fee Remission

The Judge stated that if the Claimant had filled out an EX160 Court Fee Remission Form, he would have been able to avoid paying the fee of £455. The Judge mentioned that this would not have been an “overly onerous or disproportionate exercise.” He also stated that the form:

“does not, for example, enquire as to whether or not the Claimant has alternative means of funding the court fee, such as legal expense insurance, or whether or not he had a solicitor acting, and if so whether they were in a position to fund the court fee.

Due to this, the Judge ruled that the disbursement was not recoverable as the Court fee formed part of the Claimant’s costs and are not complicated by the involvement of solicitors.”

What Does this Decision Mean for Future Practice?

Although a paying party may use the decision in the Stoney case to argue that Court fees could have been mitigated if the Claimant was entitled to an EX160 Court Fee Remission, this is a County Court decision, and it is not binding in law.

It remains to be argued that although the High Court decision in Peters was a claim relating to damages, and not costs, the same judgment should be applied when it comes to Court fees.

If you are struggling to recover your Court fees, please do not hesitate to contact ARC Costs to find out how we can assist.  The ARC Costs team are always happy to help, and the writer can be contacted via email at thomas.higginbottom@arccosts.co.uk, or by telephone on 01204 397302.

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