Costs budgeting will not be applied to High Court clinical negligence cases listed for costs hearings between October 2015 and January 2016 in an attempt to clear the backlog, it has emerged.
A spokesman for the Judicial Office told Litigation Futures yesterday that the High Court had a “standing discretion to disapply the costs budgeting/management provisions” in individual cases.
“As a temporary measure, to clear a backlog of cases, the Queen’s Bench Masters responsible for the case management of clinical negligence cases are exercising this discretion in relation to cases listed before them between October 2015 and January 2016. This approach will be kept under review.”
In a statement on its website, Elite Law Solicitors, incorporating HM Law Costs Draftsmen, said it had been “informed that the High Court has began sending out orders stating that claims will not be subject to costs management”.
It went on: “We believe said orders are in relation to clinical negligence cases which have been issued but no order in relation to costs management has been made. It is unclear whether this will apply to cases which are issued going forward and if so for how long.”
The firm said that the new orders directed that costs estimates should be exchanged within 14 days of the order, rather than 14 days before the hearing.
“The undoubted result of these orders will be that solicitors will need to prepare costs estimates on an urgent basis for any cases where they are awaiting directions in relation to the first case management conference.”
Delivering the Harbour Litigation Funding lecture last month, Lord Justice Jackson called for a “one-off release” from costs management for all medical negligence cases in this category.
He said the issue had become particularly acute in London, where the waiting time for a first case and costs management conference had reached nine months.
Jackson LJ went on to call for the repeal of amendments to the rules that introduced an assumption in favour of costs management and their replacement with a new rule making it clear that courts should not manage costs if they lacked “the resources to do so without causing significant delay and disruption” to cases.
However, in a short address after the lecture, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, appeared to pour cold water on Jackson LJ’s proposals, saying he feared that “the ‘lack of resources’ card will be played in many cases” and there was a real danger that costs management will become the exception and not the rule in clinical negligence cases”.