In this case, HHJ David Grant had to decide whether or not fixed recoverable costs applied to a claim that started out in the portal but was subsequently allocated to the multi-track.
This was a claim arising out of a road traffic accident. Fraud was alleged by the Defendant. Although the claim was valued at less than £25,000, it was allocated to the multi-track.
The Original Decision
At a CCMC, the District Judge ordered that fixed recoverable costs, as set out at CPR 45.29a, applied to the Claimants’ case. With that in mind, there was no need for the court to complete a costs budgeting exercise.
The Claimants appealed the decision that fast track costs should apply in a multi track claim. The appeal was dismissed by the Circuit Judge, who held that “The text of CPR rule 45.29A is quite clear: it states that Section IIIA of Part 45 will apply when a claim is started under the RTA Protocol, but no longer continues under that Protocol or the stage 3 procedure set out in Practice Direction 8B.”
The Judge took the view that there was no ambiguity in the wording of the rule and that the court’s role was to apply the simple, ordinary meaning of that wording. He rejected a further argument on behalf of the Claimants that restricting them to fixed costs would deprive them of their right to a fair trial as they would incur much greater costs than they would be able to recover. The judge held that it was legitimate to contain (both sides’) costs by reference to the value of the claim. Further, the court had a potential escape from fixed costs in appropriate cases by allowing costs exceeding fixed costs under CPR 45.29J.
With regard to the amount of additional work involved in a case such as this, where the allegation was that the Claimants’ driver had induced the collision, the judge observed:
“It is perhaps permissible to observe that the nature and ambit of the allegations of fraud which are made in the present case are discernibly of a different nature from the types of allegation often made in cases of commercial fraud in proceedings in the Chancery Division, the Commercial Court, or the TCC. Such cases often involve examination of considerable volumes of documents, analysis of legal principles of fiduciary duty, and consideration of often complex commercial factual matrices. In contrast, the central factual issue in the present case is simply whether the First Claimant applied the brakes in such a manner that he induced a relatively minor road traffic accident to occur.
“While the claimant’s overall probity will no doubt be explored at trial, perhaps involving consideration of their conduct before the accident, at the accident, and indeed after the accident, and it may be necessary to consider some documents (such as relevant medical records), the overall nature of the case to my mind still answers the description of a low value personal injury claim arising out of a road traffic accident, albeit proceeding on the multi-track. It does not therefore appear that the nature of the underlying proceedings is such that the implementation of fixed recoverable costs for such a claim would – of itself – cause affront to the overriding objective”.
Although this is a County Court judgment, it was, nonetheless, an appeal to a Circuit Judge. The judgment is likely to provide significant savings for Defendants in such cases, in the absence of Claimants being able to show that there is a good reason why the court should depart from the FRC regime.
It is worth noting, however, that this is only likely to apply to multi track cases with a value of less than £25,000. Cases where the value exceeds that should not fall under the FRC scheme as there is no point of reference in the rules as to the amount of costs that would apply to sums above that figure.