MoJ confirms scope of fixed costs pilot
The Ministry of Justice confirmed this month that lawyers that have opted to take part its fixed cost pilot will have their costs capped at £80,000, plus court fees. The pilot is available for cases valued at between £100,000 and £250,000 in the London Circuit Commercial Court; and the Leeds and Manchester Commercial Court, Technology and Construction Court and Chancery Division.
The MoJ published practice direction 51w on 9 January outlining the details of the scheme and giving effect to the twoyear pilot, which began on 14 January 2019 and will end on 13 January 2021. The pilot, which was approved in principle by the Civil Procedure Rules Committee in May 2017, is the most recent initiative deriving from former Court of Appeal judge Sir Rupert Jackson’s costs review in 2009. In 2017 Jackson published a report proposing an extension of fixed recoverable costs in English civil courts. In it he included details of, and draft rules for, the capped costs pilot.
If the pilot was successful, he suggested that judges could then order capped costs at their discretion on any suitable case in the business courts. The pilot will not be available for cases which require a trial of more than two days, involve allegations of fraud, require extensive disclosure or reliance upon extensive witness or expert evidence, or involve numerous issues and parties. Under the pilot cases will be subject to a streamlined procedure with the aim of bringing them to trial within eight months of the case management conference.
The MoJ’s practice direction outlines caps at each stage of the case, the are; £10,000 for pre-action; £6,000 at disclosure; and £20,000 for the trial and judgment. The pilot is part of a broader drive to streamline court procedure, lower costs, hasten the resolution of claims and give parties greater certainty around the costs involved.
Speaking to Solicitors Journal after the publication of Jackson’s report, Ed Crosse, president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association and disputes partner at Simmons & Simmons, said: “The pilot will involve the adoption of established and widely endorsed fast-track procedures which, with robust case management, should provide greater procedural efficiency and certainty to the litigation”. However, he warned that for the scheme to be successful it will need to be supported by courts that have sufficient resources to manage the streamlined processes