Summary Assessment of Costs

Cohen v Fine [2020]

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Summary Assessment of Costs

Following Trial in a matter, costs are usually awarded to the successful party and are to be assessed by way of detailed assessment, or the Court may complete a summary assessment of costs on the day.  This is most likely to take place in matters which are on the Fast Track and which involve a hearing of a day or less.

In order for a summary assessment of costs to take place, the parties must have filed a Statement of Costs 24 hours before the hearing (or 2 working days if the matter relates to a Trial). The Statement of Costs needs to include the hourly rates charged, the number of hours incurred, the grade of the solicitor or fee earner and details of the disbursements incurred.

The Statement of Costs should follow the format of form N260 and must be signed by the Solicitor or the client. Form N260 does not need to be used however, an explanation has to be provided for any deviation from the same.  In Multi Track matters, it is also good practice to prepare a Statement of Costs in the N260B format, as this is directly comparable to any approved Costs Budget, and also enables a reasonable interim payment to be obtained on account. 

The most recent case of Cohen v Fine [2020] EWHC 3278 (Ch)Costs provided the correct approach in undertaking a summary assessment of costs and further commented on how the guideline rates should be applied and adjusted from 2010.

Cohen v Fine [2020]

This was an appeal of a summarily assessed costs matter whereby the receiving party applied for costs in the sum of £48,000. The Judge at the first instance awarded him costs in the sum of £27,000. The receiving party appealed this decision where he was awarded £36,000 in costs by Judge Hodge QC.

Judge Hodge QC stated that the Guideline Hourly Rates were lower than the rates which were actually being charged by Solicitors in practice. Furthermore, he held that the Counsel fees table was not an accurate reflection of the fees being charged. He recommended that inflation is taken into account, and an increase of 36% should be justified for the Guideline Hourly Rates. 

Judge Hodge QC stated:

‘In my experience of sitting in the Business & Property Courts, both in the North-West and in the Rolls Building, the present Guideline Hourly Rates are considerably below the rates actually being charged by the Solicitors who practise in those courts. Likewise, the Table of Counsel’s Fees bears no relationship to the fees which the courts see being charged for counsel appearing in the Business & Property Courts. In my judgment, pending the outcome of the present review, the Guideline Hourly Rates should be the subject of, at least, an increase that takes due account of inflation. Using the Bank of England Inflation Calculator, it seems to me that an increase in the (Band One) figures for Manchester and Liverpool broadly in the order of 35% would be justified as a starting point (appropriately rounded-up for ease of calculation)’.

The existing Guideline Hourly Rates were set in 2010 and were last reviewed in 2014, when no increase was implemented due to lack of evidence. There is currently a review being undertaken by the Civil Justice Council into the Guideline Hourly Rates, and a report from them is due to be published soon.

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How Can ARC Costs Assist?

ARC Costs provide representation for both paying and receiving parties in detailed assessment proceedings.  For receiving parties, we are adept at arguing for an increase on the guideline hourly rates to reflect both inflation and experience. We have had recent success in recovering up to £350p/h in the SCCO for appropriate claims, and have vast experience in setting out the appropriate arguments in Replies to Points of Dispute in preparation for any provisional or detailed assessment hearings.

We can assist in preparing your Statement of Costs or Bill of Costs, ensuring that the maximum recovery is achieved as to your entitlement.

If you are the paying party, we also hold considerable experience in disputing costs which you deem to be unreasonable, and can provide assistance in negotiationsPoints of Dispute and Detailed Assessment Hearings.

Whatever your costs query, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01204 397302 or info@arccosts.co.uk.

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