The issue of proportionate costs was considered by Judge Behrens in Taylor -v- Bell & Haworth (16th February 2015). It provides a useful example of judicial comments in relation to disproportional costs.
The applicant was seeking a variation of a consent order made under the Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975. He required additional time to complete his studies as a singing student. The judge found that he had power to vary the order and payments were to be made to allow the applicant to complete his studies.
The issue of costs is dealt with in two paragraphs. In the initial part of the judgment Judge Behrens stated:
“12. The Defendants’ costs schedule in defending this application amounts to £23,267.99. In the light of the sums in the estate account I have to say that I regard such expenditure as both unfortunate and disproportionate. I cannot accept that it was necessary to go into such detail into Mr Taylor’s financial position and into his ability to study on the post graduate course. I would have expected it to have been possible to bring relevant matters to the Court’s attention at a far lower cost.”
THE APPLICANT’S COSTS
The applicant was a litigant in person. The judge suggested that it may be a suitable compromise for the applicant to waive his costs and the executors to waive a costs order for £1,335 made against him.
THE DISPROPORTIONAL COSTS OF THE EXECUTOR
46. The executors would also normally be entitled to an order for their costs out of the estate. They were after all necessary parties to the application and a court order was required. As already noted I am concerned at the level of costs claimed in the costs schedule. This was, after all, a County Court claim raising a not very difficult issue. I am concerned both at the extent to which the claim was defended and as to the actual costs incurred. I am far from convinced that it was necessary for the executors to instruct an expert in the light of the reports that had been received and the fact that any award would be conditional on Mr Taylor being awarded a place. I am far from convinced that this application justified a Grade A fee earner even though Mr Bell was one of the executors. Thus I am not satisfied that Grade A rates should apply. The hours spent also seem excessive. Equally Counsel’s fees seem high.
47. My provisional view is that I am prepared to allow the executors to take costs totalling £15,000 inclusive of VAT and disbursements out of the estate. Any costs over and above that figure are in my view disproportionate and unreasonable.
RELATED POSTS ON PROPORTIONAL COSTS
- Rigorous costs budgeting to ensure proportionality.
- Proportionality, witness statements and unnecessary costs: observations from the High Court.
- A working example of proportionality in practice
- Proportionality and costs: it applies to big cases as well
- Proportionality and survival for litigators: 1
- Proportionality and survival for litigators: 2