The senior judiciary is making progress towards introducing a £250,000 threshold for cases that are eligible to be heard in the High Court, Professor Dominic Regan has claimed. However, there are contradictory views on the enthusiasm of the Ministry of Justice for Lord Justice Jackson’s proposed extension of fixed recoverable costs.
Lord Justice Jackson said yesterday that 10 of the 16 causes of excessive costs in civil litigation he identified eight years ago have been eliminated or are on the way to elimination. He said that despite “grumbling” from lawyers and “harsh words directed mainly at me”, ignorance of the costs rules in the legal profession was “sorted”.
Lawyers have responded positively to Lord Justice Jackson’s report on fixed costs, while expressing relief that he had modified his initial idea of imposing a grid on all cases worth up to £250,000. However, concerns remain about how the plans will operate.
Lord Justice Jackson has today put forward his vision for extending fixed recoverable costs (FRC), but said he has not gone as far as originally envisaged because of improvements made in costs management. He proposed “finishing the job” of introducing FRC for all fast-track cases, as well as a new ‘intermediate’ track for certain claims up to £100,000, and a voluntary pilot of a ‘capped costs’ regime for business and property cases up to £250,000.
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee has decided against changing the financial threshold for costs budgeting in high-value personal injury cases, despite the prospect of the new discount rate taking a significant number of claims out of the regime.
The president of the Supreme Court has indicated his support for some form of contingent legal aid fund (CLAF), using third-party litigation funders as a model. The idea of the CLAF has been debated for decades and is currently being examined by a working party, set up at the urging of Lord Justice Jackson.
The work on extending fixed recoverable costs is going to start with a pilot to test capping costs at £80,000 for claims up to £250,000 in a limited number of courts, it has emerged. The voluntary pilot – which will see caps set for stages as well as the overall cap – will run for two years.
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee may need to address a hole in the exception from qualified one-way costs-shifting (QOCS) that meant defendants in a personal injury claim could not seek their costs because service of the claim had been set aside, rather than struck out, a High Court judge has ruled.