Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc 2023 EWHC 9 (SCCO)

This recent judgement makes for fairly eye watering reading where the Claimant’s Bill of Costs was reduced by significant sums after a prolonged 97-day Assessment. The decision arose from Commercial Court proceedings where the Claimant had obtained Judgement for the sum of $243m with an order for the Defendant to pay 85% of the Claimant’s costs on the Indemnity Basis. The Detailed Assessment process was hard fought involving a Bill of Costs at approximately £53m with extensive documents schedules amounting to in excess of 2000 pages. The Defendant sought to challenge every item.

There were criticisms by the Defendant of the way in which the Claimant’s solicitors had recorded time, that descriptions were insufficient and composite entries simply didn’t illustrate how the time had been spent on each occasion and on each task. This was not helped by an apparent lack of supporting file notes leading the Court to make substantial reductions on the costs overall of some 32%. The Claimants were also found to have included claims for costs in the Bill to which they were not entitled and were heavily criticised for doing so and not having checked the accuracy of the Bill of Costs when certifying the same.

In making such reductions, it was the way in which time had been recorded (or not!) and the lack of large parts of the file and supporting notes that, in large part, minded the Court to reach its decision. The Claimant’s Assessment costs also took a big hit being reduced by 30%.

This case is a very important reminder of how essential it is to make clear and contemporaneous file notes showing the time spent on each task and on each date. Furthermore, to ensure the accuracy of a Bill of Costs before service since even the Indemnity Basis cannot offer any added protection when things simply do not add up.

For more information, contact Melanie Pearson, here.

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