Case Summary: Parsons v Stevens Case Number: G33BI961
Court: County Court at Truro
Date: 14 May 2024
Judge: Deputy District Judge Fentem

Fixed Costs and Disbursements in Dispute

The Defendant applied under Part 18 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) for further information regarding a specific disbursement claimed by the Claimant following acceptance of a CPR Part 36 offer related to a road traffic accident claim from 2017.

Key Points:

Claim Background: The Claimant issued a claim for damages in August 2020 for a 2017 accident. Liability was admitted, but damages were contested.

Settlement: The Claimant accepted the Defendant’s CPR Part 36 offer in December 2023, staying proceedings under CPR r.36.14(1).

Costs Determination: Costs will be determined under the pre-October 2023 rules and subject to the fixed costs regime in CPR Part 45 Section IIIA.

Disbursement in Question: The Claimant’s disbursement of £5,880 plus VAT for a medical report by Dr. Francis Luscombe through Premex Services Limited is under scrutiny. The Defendant requested a breakdown of this fee.

Defendant’s Application:

The Defendant applied for an order requiring the Claimant to provide detailed information on the disbursement. The Claimant had not yet applied for a determination under the Nema v Kirkland procedure.

Judge’s Analysis:

Necessity for Information: The Judge concluded that the Defendant is reasonably entitled to understand the breakdown of the disbursement to assess its proportionality and reasonableness.

Proportionality: Given the substantial amount of the disbursement in the context of the claim, the Judge deemed it proportionate to require a breakdown.

Commercial Sensitivity: The Judge dismissed Premex’s claims of commercial sensitivity as insufficient to withhold information.

Response Order: The Judge ordered the Claimant to provide a detailed response on the disbursement, specifying the fee paid to Dr. Luscombe, by a set date.

Sanctions for Non-Compliance: If the Claimant fails to provide the required information, the Disbursement will be assessed at a significantly lower amount (£1,500 plus VAT).

Conclusion regarding disbursements in dispute

Deputy District Judge Fentem directed the Claimant to disclose the specific fee paid to Dr. Luscombe, ensuring transparency and fairness in the costs determination process. Failure to comply will result in a reduced assessed amount for the disbursement.

Procedure for Solicitors to Challenge Disputed Fixed Costs

The recent judgments in Nema v Kirkland [2019] and Ivanov v Lubbe [2020] provide guidance on recoverability of costs in fixed costs cases that have exited the portal.

Nema v Kirkland [2019]

A Fixed Costs RTA case from 2017 exited the portal and accepted the Defendant’s Part 36 Offer on 25 July 2018. A fixed costs schedule was served, but the Defendant disputed Counsel’s fees and the engineer’s photograph fees (£564.00). The Defendant sent a cheque for the undisputed amount on 20 September 2018, but the Claimant had already initiated detailed assessment proceedings.

Master Leonard ruled that detailed assessment was disproportionate and an application should be made under CPR 36.20 for the disputed fees.

Ivanov v Lubbe [2020]:

Similar to Nema, this RTA case exited the portal and was issued under Part 7. Lethem DJ ruled that a Part 23 application was appropriate for recovering the issue fee.  The court’s discretion determined whether costs could be summarily assessed or needed detailed assessment, considering proportionality. The appellant successfully recovered the issue fee.

Further Medical Agency Fee Challenge

Dome Holdings Case

Decided in August 2023, the judge in this case addressed a dispute regarding the claimant’s failure to provide a detailed breakdown of medical report fees and medical agency fees. The fee notes provided by the reporting agency lacked sufficient detail.

The judge referenced previous County Court decisions, particularly the ruling by HHJ Bird in Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust v. Hoskin and the unreported 2002 decision by His Honour Judge Cooke in Stringer v. Copley. These decisions highlighted the necessity for fee notes to distinguish between medical fees and agency charges. This differentiation is essential for the court to assess the reasonableness and proportionality of the fees compared to what solicitors might charge for similar work.

The judge noted that while some decisions, such as those in Beardmore v. Lancashire County Council and  Sephton v. Anchor Hanover Group, suggested that detailed breakdowns might not be necessary under fixed recoverable costs, the lack of specific information, like hourly rates and time spent, hindered the court’s ability to evaluate the fees accurately.

Consequently, the judge ruled that the claimant must provide a detailed breakdown of the fee notes, separating the expert’s fees from the agency’s charges. This requirement aims to facilitate a fair assessment of whether the fees are reasonable and proportionate.

Conclusion On Agency Fees and Transparency

The judgment focuses on the importance of transparent and detailed fee notes from medical agencies and experts to ensure fair cost assessments in legal proceedings.

Key Points to Consider When Recovering Disbursements in Dispute

Scope of Fixed Costs: Determine if your case is within the Fixed Costs regime or has been moved to Multi-Track.

Reasonable Disbursements: Ensure outstanding disbursements are reasonable under CPR 45.29I.

Settlement Method: Assess if CPR 36.20 can be utilised for cost recovery.

Commercial Viability: Consider if pursuing disbursements under CPR 36.20 is feasible and worthwhile.  Should you instruct experts direct?

Our view is that solicitors before accepting damages on behalf of clients should send a full schedule of disbursements in advance and agree in full together with costs. If this is not acceptable, to take instructions from the client to advise of the amount in dispute and if the client wishes to reject that offer or accept with the deductions.

Share this article

Start Your Claim

We’re ready to start working with you


Call Us

Call our legal helpline to talk to an expert now.


Claim Online

Start your claim online and get started quickly.


Visit Us

Our offices are in Mossley Hill, Liverpool

Contact Us