DISPOSAL HEARINGS: KEY COURT OF APPEAL DECISION
In Bird v Acorn Group Ltd  EWCA Civ 1096, judgment delivered on 11 November 2016, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling of enormous importance, has held that where a disposal hearing takes place then the full, highest level of pre-trial fixed costs are payable.
Table 6B Part B lists the three stages within which the settlement can be reached:-
– on or after the date of issue, but prior to the date of allocation under Part 26;
– on or after the date of allocation under Part 26, but prior to the date of listing;
– on or after the date of listing but prior the date of trial.
The issue has been which stage should apply when a matter has been listed for a disposal hearing but has not been allocated to a track and settles before that hearing, or at the hearing.
Clearly it can be argued that that is on or after the date of issue, but prior to the date of allocation under Part 26 and therefore the fixed costs should be the stage 1 costs of £1,160.00 plus 20% of damages.
Equally it can be argued that if a matter has been given a date for the disposal hearing then it is in stage 3, that is “on or after the date of listing but prior to the date of trial”. In that the case the fees payable are £2,655.00 plus 20% of damages.
Thus the difference in each road traffic accident matter is £1,495.00 plus VAT, that is £1,794.00 including VAT.
The principles apply in relation to employers’ liability and public liability cases, as well as road traffic accident cases and will also apply to any other type of work where fixed costs are introduced, for example clinical negligence.
However numerically road traffic accidents dominate and in the four months between 1 May 2016 and 31 August 2016, 270,306 matters were issued on the RTA Portal, giving a projected annual figure for 2016/17 of 810,918 RTA Portal claims, and therefore potentially Fixed Recoverable Costs claims.
Not only is this decision a huge boost for claimants and their solicitors, but it is also indicative of a recent trend in decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, which, depending on your viewpoint, have been pro-claimant or redressing the balance.
As my previous blogs have indicated the wording of the rules left it open to the courts to adopt either position, and unsurprisingly some took one view and other courts took a different view. Both were perfectly legitimate and proper under the wording of the Civil Procedure Rules.
This key ruling should also help to quell the fears of civil litigators about the extension of Fixed Recoverable Costs to all civil work.
For a more detailed analysis of the wording of the Civil Procedure Rules and the issues involved here please go to my post: Disposal Hearings: Which Fixed Costs are Payable.
Please see another one of my related blogs:-