Wed 5 March 2014

On 6th January 2014, judgement was given in Knowles v Goldborn, which may be the first appeal decision on premature issue of costs-only proceedings. His Honour Judge Gregory set aside the order of the district judge giving the claimant the right to a detailed assessment, which was made at a hearing following issue of Part 8 costs-only proceedings under CPR 46.14. The circuit judge held that the district judge had been wrong to make that order.

Although it was not ultimately disputed on the appeal, the circuit judge said that he would have unhesitatingly come to the view in any event that costs-only proceedings should be commenced only after a proper attempt at agreement. Parties should not rush to litigation.

The defendant had shown itself open to negotiation by settling the claim for damages without the issue of proceedings, and then by making an offer for the costs. The defendant had initially asked for the names of the fee earner before making an offer.

Although provision of names was not mandatory under the rules, the circuit judge held that was a reasonable request. He found that there was no evidence that the defendants were involved in delaying tactics. He found then that the claimant has not made a proper attempt at agreement and had commenced proceedings unduly hastily. In those circumstances, he held the outcome was obvious: the proceedings must be dismissed as they did not comply with the rules.

The judgment is a warning to all those representing receiving parties who commence costs-only proceedings hastily, perhaps after a set, short, arbitrary period of time, and perhaps with a view to generating additional costs. Such proceedings face the considerable risk of dismissal, squandering the one opportunity to bring a claim under CPR 46.14.

A copy of the judgment is available on request or via the usual outlets.



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