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Court of Appeal delivers boost for claimant lawyers on costs principle

Claimant lawyers will breath a sigh of relief today after the Court of Appeal ruled that costs of attending rehabilitation case management meetings could in principle be recovered.

In Hadley v Przybylo Lord Justice Coulson ruled that such costs should be allowed subject to the usual questions of reasonableness and proportionality.

In a previous ruling, Master McCloud had caused dismay in the claimant sector by suggesting that the costs of attending such meetings were not ‘incurred in the progression of litigation’ and so were not recoverable.

Coulson said the master’s categorisation was ‘potentially unhelpful’ and added it was common sense not to rule that any generic category of costs was irrecoverable in principle.

‘It would be wrong to decide that the costs of the solicitors’ attendance at rehabilitation case management meetings are always irrecoverable,’ he said. ‘Equally, it would be wrong for the claimant’s solicitor to assume that routine attendance at such meetings will always be recoverable. It will always depend on the facts.’

The claim itself was worth around £14.5m in lump sum and periodical payments, with lawyers seeking £1.18m in costs, of which more than half had been incurred at the time of presenting the budget.

The defence solicitors argued that future costs of £68,400 for attending rehab case management meetings were too high.

Coulson said the issue of whether costs were recoverable was a matter for a costs judge, although he noted that at first sight the costs in this case ‘seem very high’. He allowed the appeal but said the defendant could take all reasonableness and proportionality arguments forward to detailed assessment.

Chris Barnes KC, of Exchange Chambers, who acted for the claimant, said the point at issue in the case was of real significant to the manner in which high-value injury claims are handled. 'The judgment is a significant win for claimants and their rehabilitation,' he said. 'It goes far beyond restoring what might have been the position prior to the first instance hearing. No longer can defendants challenge these costs on the point of principle.'

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