Points of Dispute

points of disputeWhen receiving a bill of costs with a Notice of Commencement, the paying party will have a deadline of 21 days from the day of service to challenge the amount claimed.  The paying party does not have to accept the bill of costs as drawn and is entitled to raise points of dispute. These are formal legal arguments against the amounts claimed in the bill of costs, with the overall objective of reducing the paying party’s costs liability.

The importance of serving Points of Dispute in a timely manner cannot be understated. Failure to do so will enable the receiving party to apply to the court for a Default Costs Certificate, potentially giving them an entitlement to the costs in the bill as drawn.

We have an experienced team of costs lawyers and draftsmen who routinely analyse and critique the technical aspects of bills of costs, whilst relying on the relevant regulations and recent authorities to limit the client’s costs liability.

Format Of Points Of Dispute

Points of Dispute should be short and to the point and should follow as closely as possible Precedent G of the Schedule of Costs Precedents annexed to the Part 47 Practice Direction.

If there are any matters of principle which require decision before individual items in the Bill are addressed, these should be identified and then any specific points should be set out, stating concisely the nature and grounds of dispute. Once a point has been made it should not be repeated but the item numbers where the point arises should be inserted in the left-hand box as shown in Precedent G.

The Importance Of Compliant Points Of Dispute

The Court of Appeal recently ruled that a Senior Costs Judge was entitled to refuse to assess part of a law firm’s profit costs in a Section 70 Detailed Assessment on the basis that the client’s Points of Dispute did not contain enough detail.

In Ainsworth v Stewarts Law LLP [2019] EWCA Civ 897, Mr Ainsworth instructed a London firm to act in a dispute with his former partner but terminated the retainer because he was not happy with its work. He pursued a Section 70 assessment of the firm’s costs, at which Senior Costs Judge Gordon-Saker assessed the costs payable at £200,706.00, including £18,000.00 for the costs of the Detailed Assessment proceedings.

He refused to assess the firm’s profit costs of work done on documents on the basis that Mr Ainsworth’s Points of Dispute did not contain enough detail. Mr Ainsworth subsequently went on to appeal the decision.

His Honour Judge Klein, sitting as a Judge of the High Court, found that the Claimant’s Points of Dispute tried to “shift the burden of proving the reasonableness of each and every item and so their recoverability onto the Defendant”. He also made two broad generic complaints – that the time spent on each item was excessive and that work was duplicated.

HHJ Klein said: “The master was entitled to conclude that neither the Defendant nor the Court knew the case which the Defendant had to meet on the individual items in the schedule.” The master also had only half a day to deal with the challenges, and HHJ Klein said it was “likely, at best, that the hearing would have had to be adjourned part-heard, in my view, unnecessarily. It follows, therefore, that in drafting the Points of Dispute, the Claimant did not further the overriding objective”.

Citing paragraph 8.2 of PD 47, he said the Points of Dispute were not “to the point”, did not summarise all of the particular objections to the specific points which the Claimant claimed to advance at the hearing, and the Defendant did not know or know sufficiently the case it had to meet.

This Judgment made it clear that it will not be sufficient, where one item comprises multiple parts (for example, the documents section of a Bill of Costs) to set out one very general Point of Dispute. The Points of Dispute must allow the parties and the Court to identify precisely what is disputed and why and a failure to do so may result in grave consequences.

Points of Dispute – How We Can Help

When it comes to preparing Points of Dispute, our team of Costs Lawyers and Draftsmen have extensive experience in identifying specific areas of weakness in a Bill of Costs with a view to significantly reducing the overall cost liability for the client.

We will carefully scrutinise the Bill of Costs and any supporting documents to ensure that robust, accurate and pertinent Points of Dispute are prepared within the appropriate timeframes. Along with the Points of Dispute we will also provide realistic advice in relation to settlement parameters, with a view to ensuring a swift resolution on the best possible terms.

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Call 0800 086 2929, email info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk, or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form to arrange a free, no-obligation discussion with one of our legal costs experts.

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John Mistri

Senior Partner, Costs
Lawyer & Mediator
Legal Costs

“I have instructed John on a number of occasions over many years. He is extremely knowledgeable in his field and very user-friendly. I always have no hesitation in recommending John for anyone needing a Costs Lawyer.”

Alistair Myles, Partner, Levison Meltzer Pigott

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