News & Resources

Written judgment from Chief Master Gordon-Saker on a preliminary issue in detailed assessment proceedings about whether a bill of costs should be re-drawn

9th August 2017

Matt Waszak (instructed by Jessica Swannell and Michelle Farlow of A&M Bacon) acted for the successful claimant in a preliminary hearing in detailed assessment proceedings.

The hearing concerned, as argued by the defendant, whether the claimant’s bill of costs should be re-drawn to divide specific common costs and non-specific common costs. Chief Master Gordon-Saker’s judgment in Austin v East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (08/08/2017) can be read here.

The detailed assessment proceedings followed the claimant’s successful claim against East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, arising from the Marlie Farm fire and explosion on 03.12.06 in Sussex. The claimant’s claim formed part of a number of claims brought by several different claimants against different defendants. The issue of liability was determined by Irwin J (as he then was) in a judgment handed down on 30.07.13: [2013] EWHC 2331 (QB).

The claimant brought his claim against two defendants, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and Alpha Fireworks Limited. Early on in the proceedings, Alpha went into liquidation and played no further part in the proceedings.

The defendant argued, as a preliminary issue in its Points of Dispute, that the Bill of Costs did not properly separate specific common costs and non-specific common costs; and as such, that the Court should order the claimant to re-serve its bill of costs.

Chief Master Gordon-Saker rejected that argument. He held that arguments in relation to the division of specific common costs could be heard at the detailed assessment and that it would be disproportionate to order the bill of costs in these circumstances to be re-drawn.

Of wider interest, the Chief Master held, in relation to the issue of whether the Court can order a party to serve an amended bill of costs, that:

·         “There is no specific provision in the Civil Procedure Rules that enables the court to order a receiving party to serve an amended bill” (paragraph 14).

·         “The rules enable the court to make any order for the purpose of managing a case: CPR 3.1(2)(m). By analogy with the court’s powers to strike out a statement of case (CPR 3.4) and to require a party to provide further information (CPR 18.1) it seems to me that the court must also have the power, in an appropriate case, to require a party to serve an amended bill which either omits costs to which that party cannot be entitled or which identifies the basis on which the costs are claimed if otherwise there could not be a fair detailed assessment hearing” (paragraph 15).