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Judgment handed down in Hadley v Przybylo

News | Fri 15th Mar, 2024

The Court of Appeal has decided that the Claimant’s solicitors’ costs of attending rehabilitation case management meetings are recoverable as costs of an action, in principle, but has not given solicitors carte-blanche to expect to be paid to attend each and every meeting.

The matter came before the Court in Hadley v Przybylo [2024] EWCA Civ 250.  In the case, the claimant had been catastrophically injured in a road traffic collision, and a comprehensive rehabilitation package put in place.  The Claimant’s and, to a lesser extent Defendant’s, solicitors attended case management meetings.  Proceedings were issued and came before Master McCloud for a Costs and Case Management Conference.  In the ‘Issues / Statements of Case’ phase, the Claimant’s solicitors have included both incurred and future estimated costs for attending case management meetings.  On challenge from the Defendant, the Master concluded that the costs were not recoverable in principle on the basis that they were ‘inherently non-progressive’, being costs that did not progress the litigation.

In a leapfrog appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned that conclusion.  It held that the test of whether a legal cost is recoverable inter-parties remains that as stated in In re Gibson’s Settlement Trusts [1981] Ch 179 at 184F-G.  To be recoverable, the cost must relate to something which (i) proved of use and service in the action; (ii) was relevant to an issue; and (iii) was attributed to the defendant’s conduct.  Coulson LJ summarised these tests as: (i) utility, (ii) relevance and (iii) attributability.  The Court of Appeal held that attendance at case management meetings satisfied that test and, as a result, the costs associated with that attendance were recoverable in principle.

However, the Court went to some lengths to point out that this did not mean that the costs of attending each and every case management meeting could be recovered.  It acknowledged that it was important that the Claimant’s solicitors keep an appropriate eye on the rehabilitation plans (and, so, avoid a reduction in the claim for the costs of that rehabilitation if it is found to have been of poor quality or inadequate – as occurred in Loughlin v Singh & Ors [2013] EWHC 1641).  But held that, whether the cost of any specific attendance was recoverable was a matter of fact, to be determined by considering whether the attendance in question satisfied the test of recoverability in In re Gibson’s Settlement Trusts.  In addition, the Court acknowledged that the costs must always be reasonable and proportionate to be recoverable.  In the case, the Claimant’s claim for costs for attendance at case management meetings was more than £130,000.  It is fair to say that the Court raised more than just a judicial eyebrow at that sum. 

In short, then, the costs of attending case management meetings can be recovered in principle, but, to be recoverable, the solicitor’s attendance needs to have some utility and relevance to the progress of the case, and be as a result of the injury caused to the Claimant.  In addition, the costs must be reasonable and proportionate to the amount at stake and issues in the case.

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