Civil Procedure Rule Committee Meeting - Fixed Recoverable Costs (FRC)
By Law News
MoJ presses ahead with fixed costs proposals despite CPRC opposition
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) convened to discuss various matters, with a significant focus on extending Fixed Recoverable Costs (FRC) and related amendments. The meeting was chaired by Mr Justice Trower, and key points from the discussions are summarized below:
In the recent meeting of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC), Mr Justice Trower presented a comprehensive overview of the current status, reflecting decisions and actions from the previous CPRC gathering on November 3, 2023. Special acknowledgment was extended to District Judge Middleton for his dedicated work with the sub-committee.
The focal point of the discussions revolved around proposed amendments to the Fixed Recoverable Costs (FRC) regime. The committee delved into a suite of changes, incorporating input from consultations and user feedback. Ian Curtis-Nye elucidated the proposed alterations, particularly addressing fixed costs determinations and amendments to rule 46.14 concerning fixing costs of Part 8 proceedings.
However, concerns and unease permeated the discussions. Committee members expressed reservations about the complexity and potential unintended consequences of the proposed new procedure for fixed costs determination. The Chair underscored the importance of efficiency and simplicity, questioning the necessity of a protracted process. Furthermore, concerns were raised regarding the potential funnellnig of all cases into the new process, contrary to its intended scope.
A crucial aspect of the deliberations involved the uprating of FRC figures. Mr Wright from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) affirmed the commitment to uprating FRC figures, utilizing the Services Producer Price (SPPI) as the inflationary index. This uprating encompassed figures in various tables, including those related to fast track, intermediate track, and noise-induced hearing loss claims.
The application of the uprated figures triggered deliberations on two options: applying them to all claims from the April 2024 in-force date, regardless of when they started, or applying them solely to claims issued on or after the April 2024 in-force date. The MoJ favoured the first option, emphasizing consistency in applying the new figures from April 2024.
Resolutions and approvals were a key outcome of the meeting. The committee resolved not to adopt proposed reforms related to fixed costs determinations and fixing costs of Part 8 claims in their current form. However, amendments concerning recoverability of restoration proceedings, timing for clinical negligence claims allocation, case management conferences, and entitlement to costs were approved, pending final drafting.
Association of Costs Lawyers chair Jack Ridgway commented that “We are deeply concerned to learn that the Ministry of Justice is pressing ahead with the proposals on fixed costs in costs matters despite the rule committee rejecting them. It is unusual to see the committee push back on policy in this way and officials should be listening, not barrelling on.
“The very brief summary contained in last week’s consultation response on the FRC changes failed to reflect the rule committee’s view, which is another worry. We urge the Ministry of Justice to pause this ill-judged reform and speak to the experts about how best to deal with the issue they are trying to address. The ACL stands ready to assist.”