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Collins disappointed by Corby costs cut

18 August 2009

Families who won a High Court victory against Corby Council last month in their campaign to prove that children were born with deformities as a result of exposure to toxic waste have had the costs awarded to them cut by ten per cent.

Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors in Watford and solicitor for the families, said he was disappointed by Mr Justice Akenhead’s decision. Claimant lawyers estimated their costs in the action at more than £4m.

Giving the costs judgment in Corby Group Litigation v Corby District Council [2009] EWHC 2109 (TCC), Akenhead J said claimant lawyers had asked for an interim payment of over £3m.

He said there could be no doubt that the claimants had won on the issue of liability, in that up to 16 of the 18 claimants on the group litigation register could take their individual cases forward to establish causation and quantum.

However, he said he had already made it clear that the claimants “did adopt a scattergun approach and did not seek properly to analyse what breaches of duty occurred on what projects and contracts and how such breaches led to the dispersal of mud and dust”.

Mr Justice Akenhead said if a proper analysis had been done well before the trial, a significant amount of time could have been saved.

“There was some time wasted at trial. This arose because the claimants did not have sufficient witnesses available on a day-to-day basis to enable full days’ hearings to take place.”

He went on: “Doing the best that I can to take into account these two factors, the scattergun and trial time wasted, I have formed the view that a reduction in the claimants’ costs entitlement of ten per cent would adequately and fairly reflect them.”

Reducing potential costs of almost £3m by £300,000, then allowing a further 60 per cent for assessment, Akenhead J ordered an interim payment of £1.6m.

Collins said this was hardly enough to cover the ATE insurance premium of £1m and expert witness fees – estimated at £500,000.

He said the time at trial that the judge considered wasted had arisen in “unfortunate circumstances” in the early stages of trial.

“We thought the residents would be got through at three to four a day, when it actually took half that time,” Collins said. “We were surprised, but there we are.”

He said the individual trials on the issue of causation were unlikely to start before next summer.

It is understood that Corby Council is holding a meeting today to decide whether to appeal on the issue of liability.

Categorised in:

Procedures Costs Local government Courts & Judiciary