Hot on the heels of the BNM v MGN case earlier this month (where Master Gordon Saker applied sizeable reductions to a bill on the basis of proportionality) comes the case of May v (1) Wavell Group Ltd (2) Dr Bizzari (16/06/16).
In this case the claimants brought an action in private nuisance. Proceedings were issued and the claimants accepted the first offer of £25,000.
The bill of costs came to £208,236.54. After an assessment of the costs on an item by item basis on assessment the reasonable costs came to £99,655.74.
Master Rowley in the SCCO then stood back and reduced the costs yet again to a staggering £35,000 plus VAT based on a global approach to proportionality. In other words the Claimants recovered only around 20% of the costs originally claimed.
The judgment contains a detailed examination of the principles relating to proportionality. Master Rowley, in reaching his decision had regard to all of the factors set out in CPR 44.3(5). The Master found that the sum accepted (£25,000) reflected the sums in issue, that the case was not complicated and the Defendant’s conduct did not contribute to an increase in costs and that there were no wider factors which were relevant to the issue of proportionality.
The level of reduction in this case is remarkable and sets a worrying precedent going forward. Further, Solicitors will now need to be extra careful in the way they explain costs to the their clients as clearly the level of unrecovered costs will increase (if decisions such as this continue) and in turn so will the contribution clients are asked to pay at the end of the day.