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Jackson to push for provisional costs assessments in all courts after pilot success

26 January 2012

Lord Justice Jackson has said he has prepared a draft rule for the introduction of provisional costs assessments on a national basis after the success of a pilot at Leeds County Court.

Under the pilot, any bills of costs in which the base costs claimed were £25,000 or less was assessed on paper by a district judge, who produced a provisional assessment.

This could be challenged by either party at an oral hearing, but if that party failed to achieve a result that was at least 20 per cent better than the provisional figure, they had to pay the costs of the hearing.

Jackson LJ said that of 100 cases at Leeds County Court that proceeded to provisional assessment, there were 17 requests for an oral hearing. Only two hearings went ahead and in neither case did the dissatisfied party achieve the target of 20 per cent.

He said that the two district judges in charge of the pilot, DJs Hill and Bedford, estimated that there were savings of at least £4,000 per case for the parties who took part in the pilot.

“The process is quick and simple,” Jackson LJ said. “It thus enables many parties, who would normally be put off by the expensive and convoluted process of detailed assessment, to obtain a judicial assessment of bills. Thus the process addresses one major complaint about costs which was repeatedly pressed upon me during the costs review.

“The figures which are assessed or agreed following provisional assessment are likely to be fairer than settlements negotiated in circumstances where neither party can face going through the process of normal detailed assessment.

“The process is far cheaper for the parties than traditional detailed assessment, because (save in rare cases) they avoid the costs of preparing for and attending a hearing. Indeed, unlike traditional detailed assessment, it is cost effective.”

Jackson LJ said that, together with the senior costs judge, Master Hurst, and DJs Hill and Bedford, he had prepared a draft rule and practice direction amendments which he would be putting to the rule committee early next month “with a view to introducing provisional assessment on a national basis” from the general implementation date of all the Jackson reforms.

Scarborough and York County Courts also took part in the provisional assessment pilot but the vast majority of cases were in Leeds.

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Costs