WIGAN BOROUGH COUNCIL V SCULLINDALE GLOBAL LTD & ORS [2021] EWHC 3852 (CH)

This case revisits a couple of interesting yet re-occurring points, both concerning the Claimant’s costs. The first being whether the Claimant could attempt to amend a previously approved costs budget retrospectively with the second point relating to whether the Claimant could recover 100% of it’s costs after the Defendant failed to accept a without prejudice offer.

The Claimant sought possession of Hague Hall Hotel which the Defendant had been operating on the Claimant’s behalf. At Trial, HHJ Hodge found that the Claimant had correctly exercised the break clause in the lease and as a result the Claimant was largely successful in it’s claim.

Following Trial, the Claimant made an informal application to amend their approved costs budget in the sum of £307,000. The Claimant argued that they had incurred additional costs resulting from the Defendant’s late disclosure and the increased length of Trial which had risen from 10 to 13 days. HHJ Hodge considered the same whilst handing down his final Judgment and concluded it was not appropriate to seek a budget variation after the Trial had concluded. Instead, HHJ Hodge decided that the Court should record the facts in the final Order for the Costs Judge to exercise their discretion under CPR 3.18 (b) to depart from the Claimant’s costs budget.

HHJ Hodge then dealt with the costs of the entire matter with regards to the provisions of CPR 44.24 where the Court has the discretion to consider all the circumstances of the case. The Defendant had argued that the Claimant should only be awarded 80% of their costs on the basis that they had only been partially successful with their claim. However, HHJ rejected this approach on the basis that the Claimant had made an admissible offer to settle the claim prior to Trial and as a result awarded the Claimant their costs in full.

Following further submissions from the Defendant seeking clarification of the admissible offer point above, HHJ concluded that “had there been no such offer, I would have discounted the costs payable by the Defendants by 20%. However, as a result of the refusal to accept the admissible offer to settle, the unsuccessful party incurred further costs going forward, as did the successful party. Those costs would have been avoided entirely had the offer been accepted.”

This is yet another matter where once a costs budget has been approved, parties are required to revise costs budgets if significant developments in the litigation takes place and this needs to happen promptly. Here, the timing of the application made by the Claimant was simply far too late in the day to be considered by HHJ Hodge. Also, it is important to note that the Court has overall discretion to make costs orders as it sees fit based on the entire circumstances of the case.

The full case can be found here. You can contact Martin Walsh, here.