Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Costs: "Bordering on Despair"

Litigation can be hideously expensive.  This seems especially so in actions for Defamation (Slander and Libel) and in Boundary Disputes.  The previous government had a commitment to looking at reform of libel actions and the present government has stated a wish to take forward reform (including costs).  Work done by the Ministry of Justice may be seen at March 2010 report.  See also BBC 3rd March 2010.

Boundary disputes between neighbours are another area where some reform of procedure should be considered so as to reduce costs.  Perhaps a mandatory requirement to refer the dispute to alternative dispute resolution such as binding arbitration.  A very good article on these disputes may be read at "Loathe Thy Neighbour".  In a recent case - Charalambous v Welding [2009] EWCA Civ 1578 - the dispute was over a few feet of land worth about £5000 but the costs were almost £250,000.  One judge has stated - " ... boundary disputes can be fought with a passion which seems out of all proportion to the importance of what is involved in practical terms."

Lord Justice Jackson's Review of Costs may be seen here.

The Daily Mail 18th May offer another example of this litigation madness.

Addendum 24th May 2010:  The Times 24th May has published an item by Lord Lester of Herne-Hill QC who is introducing a Private Member's Bill dealing with Defamation Reform.  Lord Lester argues that the current law stifles free speech and the use of Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) allows lawyers acting for claimants to be enriched at the expense of writers and publishers.  The present government is committed to taking forward some reform in this area of the law.  Lord Lester's Bill may assist in this process.

Addendum 27th May 2010:  Here is a link to Lord Lester's Defamation Bill. Some analysis of it - here.

1 comment:

  1. Costs is a subject which can be relied on to create more heat than light. I have a specialism in it as part of my professional practice. For the moment I will say only this: the present determination to force down costs has led, in many routine areas, to files being entrusted to under-qualified paralegals, with the result that too many of the cases which I see develop problems which push up the costs and lead to expensive disputes about costs (which of course generate further costs). Before the CPR it was rare to see counsel appearing on a detailed assessment or to argue a costs point. now my chambers has a Costs Team of seven people (we don't all do just costs, but we all do a significant chunk of costs work). The Woolf reforms have gone badly wrong in this and other ways.