Surrey and others v Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust – WLR Daily

Surrey and others v Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust [2016] EWHC 1598 (QB)

‘Three separate cases involving clinical negligence litigation against the defendant hospital had been proceeding for several years prior to 1 April 2013. Under new legislation coming into force on 1 April 2013, a claimant entering into a conditional fee agreement (“CFA”) from that date would be unable to recover success fees and after the event (“ATE”) insurance premiums from the defendant if successful in the litigation. In each case the claim had initially been advanced with the benefit of legal aid, but in the month prior to 1 April 2013 the claimant’s solicitors, with the agreement of the claimant’s litigation friend, arranged for the legal aid certificate to be discharged and for the claim henceforth to be funded by a CFA to preserve the ability to recover the success fee and ATE premiums. In none of the cases was the litigation friend informed that the consequence would be the loss of the recognised 10% uplift on general damages. In each case the defendant challenged the successful claimant’s bill of costs, in so far as it sought to recover the success fee and the ATE premium, contending that the litigation friend’s decision was based on materially unreasonable advice (by reason of the omission to mention the 10% uplift) and that, since the burden was on the receiving party to establish that a cost was reasonably incurred and it was unknown what decision would have been made had proper advice been given, the doubt as to whether the additional costs were reasonably and proportionately incurred should be resolved in favour of the paying party. The costs judge in each case upheld the defendant’s challenge to those items, holding that the changed funding arrangements were not reasonable. Each claimant appealed, contending that the reasonableness of the decision to change funding had to be objectively assessed, so that the quality of any antecedent advice given to the claimants’ litigation friends was irrelevant.’

WLR Daily, 1st July 2016