The issue of Guideline Hourly Rates remains a hot topic and is of course always the first place Paying Parties look to reduce a Receiving Party’s legal costs. As illustrated in previous Paramount blogs, current case law illustrates a growing move away from the Guideline Hourly Rates which were fixed back in 2010 and a review of the rates is currently underway.
With this in mind, I thought it would be useful to share a recent decision reached on one of my cases which was dealt with by way of Provisional Assessment in the Southend County Court.
The case in question concerned an accident involving a vehicle that collided into the Claimant’s home causing not only property damage but both psychiatric and psychological injury to the Claimant who was present at the time and in the vicinity of the accident. Court proceedings were issued and whilst accepting fault for the accident in the Defence, the Defendant did not accept the Claimant’s medical evidence or Causation. The Claimant sought to rely upon Expert evidence from one medical Expert only and there was recourse to Counsel who drafted Particulars of Claim, advised in conference and on Quantum. The claim was subsequently allocated to the Multi-Track and listed for CCMC although before that hearing, the Defendant made a Part 36 offer of £40,000.00 which was accepted by the Claimant.
A Bill of Costs was prepared detailing the Claimant’s reasonable costs and seeking to recover an hourly rate for an experienced Grade A Fee Earner of £250.00 per hour which was the rate agreed with the Claimant who funded the matter by way of CFA.
In Points of Dispute, the Defendant argued that “the involvement of a Grade A fee earner charging an hourly rate of £250.00 per hour is entirely unreasonable and disproportionate. In light of the involvement from Counsel, the Defendant avers that a Grade B fee earner is a proportionate and reasonable rate to be applied to work done in this case together with the assistance of Counsel. Further, the Defendant avers that this is not a case of sufficient value or complexity to justify any enhancement upon the rates specified within the SCCO Guidelines which the Defendant contends are reasonable and disproportionate in value for a case of this nature.”
This argument was strongly refuted on the basis that the rates applied were those agreed with the Claimant, were both reasonable and proportionate and also reflected the necessary experience and expertise that the Fee Earner brought to this matter. Furthermore, that the appropriate approach in this case was for the Court to assess the reasonableness of the rates by reference to their experience of the market rate for the nature of this specialist work and with reference to the factors in CPR 44.4.
Unable to reach agreement, a Provisional Assessment was requested and a decision made on 17/9/20 when the Court allowed the rates charged “as reasonable in the circumstances of the case.” The Receiving Party sought to challenge this decision further but it was subsequently upheld on 21/11/20 when the Court confirmed that “given the circumstances of the case it is appropriate for the Receiving Party to charge £250 per hour for Grade A fee earner and this rate has been allowed.”
This proved to be a great result with the Receiving Party’s Bill being reduced from approximately £28K to £25K against an offer of £20K with the Claimant beating their own Part 36 offer too!
This is certainly a decision I will be referring back to along with a growing number of others, when seeking to justify a client’s reasonable hourly rates beyond those currently offered with reference to the Guideline Hourly Rates.
If anyone else has any decisions on recovery of rates, then I would love to hear from you so please contact me, Melanie Pearson, at [email protected]