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Reported Case

Duncan Lewis Secures Significant Cost Judgment Victory in High Court Appeal (19 February 2024)

Date: 19/02/2024
Duncan Lewis, Reported Case Solicitors, Duncan Lewis Secures Significant Cost Judgment Victory in High Court Appeal

In a landmark decision, Duncan Lewis Solicitors secured a notable victory in the High Court in relation to a challenge to a costs judgment.


The case, Woolley v. Ministry of Justice, involved an appeal against a cost management decision of the Central London County Court relating to a substantive personal injury claim.


The core of the appeal centred on the explicit refusal of Her Honour Judge Baucher to consider the defendant's agreed budget in determining what costs might be considered 'reasonable and proportionate.' The appellant – the claimant in the CCMC – argued in the High Court that the refusal was wrong both because it is a relevant consideration and because it is one which is required by rule 3.17 of the Civil Procedure Rules. This provision requires the Court to take into account any available budgets of the parties when making case management decisions; even those which had been agreed.


Mr Justice Kerr allowed the appeal on the basis that it was, as the Appellant argued, a relevant consideration and failure to consider that amounted to a procedural or other irregularity. He added that it was a serious irregularity because of the language used by the Judge when addressing counsel for the claimant. He noted that the language used by her was “indefensible”.


While acknowledging that there was “force in both sides’ argument”, Kerr J refused to express a concluded view on whether rule 3.17 applied to cost management decisions or only case management decision (and that those excluded cost management decisions) such that the failure of the judge to consider the defendant’s budget was a breach of that rule. It was unnecessary, he felt, to express such a view in light of his conclusions on what he found to be a serious procedural irregularity.


The appellate court's decision to uphold the appeal underscores the judiciary's commitment to procedural fairness.


The result also highlights the Claims Against Public Authorities team’s expertise in navigating complex legal waters and ensuring equitable treatment for those it represents.


Background of the Case


Daniel Luke Woolley, represented by Duncan Lewis Solicitors’, appealed a decision limiting his estimated costs in a prison related personal injury claim against the Ministry of Justice. Initially, the County Court had approved a significantly lower budget than requested, deeming the proposed amount disproportionate. The appeal, meticulously argued by Counsel, together with the Claims Against Public Authorities’ team, criticised the approach of the Judge, emphasising the importance of fairness and proportionality in legal proceedings.


Significance of the Decision


This victory is one not just for our client, but testament to Duncan Lewis Solicitors' dedication to justice and readiness to challenge unjustifiable decision making at any level. It reaffirms the importance of transparency and equality in legal cost management and ensuring that all parties have a fair opportunity to present their case without unfairly and improperly imposed financial restriction.


The Claims Against Public Authorities team is led by experienced director and solicitor Graeme Rothwell. Graeme has assisted a wide variety of clients, many of whom are vulnerable, following negative experiences at the hands of the state. He regularly represents bereaved family members throughout inquest proceedings, assists in making complaints, brings civil actions against the police, the prison service, and other government departments. He can also advise in relation to the mishandling of personal information, discrimination and breaches of legislation designed to protect basic human rights. In this case, he was assisted by caseworker Christine Dela Cruz, who works as a caseworker in the Action Against Public Authorities department, supporting the team in managing cases related to inquests/inquiries, actions against the state, and the police.


The appeal was most robustly presented to the Court by Mr Daniel Grütters, of One Pump Court Chambers.


For advice in relation to claims against the police and inquests, please contact Graeme via email at graemer@duncanlewis.com or via telephone on 020 7275 2886.


Read the full judgment at https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/KB/2024/304.html


Find full details of this case on Bailii’s website here.
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