The recent case of in Havenga v Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust & Anor has seen the appellate court consider what their position is with regards to their role in costs budgeting/management. Following Havenga, the appellate court has confirmed that their role is to decide whether the revised budget is reasonable and proportionate.
In the aforementioned matter concerning a cerebral palsy case, the court was asked to consider four specific rulings made by a District Judge who reduced the Claimants budget from £770k to £464k. The Defendants budget was agreed ahead of the Costs Case Management Hearing in the sum of £157k (significantly less than the Claimants).
The Claimant appealed specifically against four reductions:
- Reduction in solicitors’ time for the Statement of Case phase from 68.15 hours to 30 hours;
- Reduction in solicitors’ costs for Expert Evidence phase from 326.7 hours at grade A to 100 hours and from 103.10 hours at grade C to 40 hours;
- Reduction in Experts fees from £66,975 to £49,000
- Reduction in costs from 74.5 hours of grade C time in the Trial Preparation phase to 25 hours, and deleting all of the 79 hours of grade C time budgeted for the attendance at the trial within the Trial phase.
HHJ Freedman, sitting in Newcastle confirmed that only if he concluded that the revised budget was outwit what can be described as reasonable and proportionate and that, therefore, the District Judge had exceeded his wide ambit of discretion, could he interfere with the overall budget.
HHJ Freedman said that he had to consider whether the District Judge “exceeded the generous ambit of his discretion in making the reductions he did” or, alternatively, whether the revised budget fell within the range of what was both reasonable and proportionate.
In reaching his decision HHJ noted that the District Judge had still allowed a budget for the Claimant which was nearly three times the amount of that claimed by the Defendant. HHJ Freedman came to the conclusion that the budget as revised by the District Judge was within the range of his discretion and that that it was reasonable and proportionate. Interestingly however, HHJ Freedman did confirm that he would have allowed more time/fees than the District Judge had, although not as much as had been claimed. However he was also quick to state that just because he would have allowed more didn’t mean that the District Judge was wrong.
An interesting decision and welcome guidance on appellate courts role. It is however interesting to note that the court did have regard to the Defendants agreed budget when considering the Claimant’s contested budget.