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Appeal judges uphold indemnity costs order in “long and acrimonious” neighbour dispute

Costs: £200,000+ bill

The Court of Appeal has backed the order of indemnity costs against a retired couple involved in a battle over access to gas and electricity meters, who “had not come to court to assist the court in resolving the dispute but to assist themselves”.

Lord Justice David Richards said Frank and Carol Dickinson now faced having to pay “well over £200,000” to cover their neighbour’s costs, “an extraordinarily high figure for a case involving a minor property dispute”.

Giving judgment in Dickinson v Cassillas [2017] EWCA Civ 1254 [1], David Richards LJ said there was “no basis for interfering with the recorder’s findings” in favour of the Dickinsons’ neighbour, Mojgan Cassillas, on access to the meters.

In a separate ruling on costs at Manchester County Court, Recorder Khan ordered the Dickinsons to pay the costs of Ms Cassillas on the standard basis until 8 January 2009 and on the indemnity basis after that.

David Richards LJ said: “On the basis of the evidence he had heard and his assessment of the evidence of Mr and Mrs Dickinson, he found that their approach to the case had been driven by a collateral reason or agenda, which was to get the meters moved.

“They had not come to court to assist the court in resolving the dispute but to assist themselves.”

David Richards LJ said Recorder Khan had also ruled that, because his order was “at least as advantageous as an offer under CPR part 36 made by Mrs Casillas but refused by Mr and Mrs Dickinson”, they were liable to pay an additional 10% on the amount of the costs payable.

“The recorder also took account of an offer made by Mrs Casillas in December 2008, the failure of Mr and Mrs Dickinson to engage in any genuine or realistic attempt to settle the case and the conduct of Mr and Mrs Dickinson, which cannot have failed to include the recorder’s adverse assessment of the honesty of their evidence.

“These are all factors that the recorder was entitled to take into account in deciding not only to award indemnity costs but to do so from 9 January 2009.

“It cannot be said that the recorder has exercised his discretion on an incorrect basis or that his order is outside the wide discretion given to judges on issues of costs. There are no grounds for this court to interfere with his order.”