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Courts at loggerheads over medical agency commissions

The controversial question of whether civil claimants need to reveal commissions paid to medical agencies continues to vex the courts, with judges appearing to hold contradictory views.

Costs and medical legal firm Costs Room reported last week that Burnley County Court had become the latest to reject defendant pleas for a breakdown of costs bills. According to the firm, District Judge Clarke ruled in Gardner v Pipinka that a breakdown of fees would not assist because they were not relevant to the assessment of reasonableness. Costs Room said it will continue to reject requests for fee breakdowns.

But another judgment from last month, Aminu-Edu v Esure, reached the opposite conclusion. His Honour Judge Saggerson reduced the payable costs for a pain management medical expert from £2,916 to £750 plus VAT. He stressed there was no issue with medical agency fees being recoverable in principle, but said the paying party was entitled to know who was being paid and what for.

This outcome mirrored that in Hoskin, in which the judge found there was a duty on both parties to provide details of any commissions that were paid.

Costs experts say there is a desperate need for a binding authority or Civil Procedure Rule Committee intervention. Sean Linley, senior costs draftsperson with Newcastle firm Carter Burnett, said: ‘While something binding is awaited, challenges are showing no signs of abeyance.’

He added that agencies being required to offer a breakdown might open a can of worms about what a reasonable amount would be.

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