Tribe – v – Southdown Gliding Club (1), Robert Adam (2) and the Estate of Ron King (3) [2007] EWHC 90080 (Costs)

Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

The Claimant suffered multiple injuries on 19/07/00 when the glider he was piloting, immediately after a winch launch, nose-dived to the ground. Following an investigation by the British Gliding Association into the cause of the accident, it was concluded that the automatic rear elevated control coupling had failed because it was incorrectly adjusted and worn.

The matter was funded by way of a CFA and supported by an ATE policy with cover limited to £100,000. The Claimant issued proceedings on 11/07/03 against the 1st Defendant (from whom he hired the glider), the 2nd Defendant (the glider’s owner) and the 3rd Defendant (who was responsible for inspecting the glider and helped maintain it).

The parties filed their Allocation Questionnaires and the Questionnaire filed by the 1st and 3rd Defendants was estimated at £7,500, with overall costs estimated to be £50,000. The 2nd Defendant estimated costs to date of £1,250, with overall costs of £15,000. The Claimant served a Notice of Discontinuance on 30/09/05 and so the three Defendants were entitled to their reasonable costs. The 1st and 3rd Defendants’ Bill of Costs amounted to £244,509.72 which was almost five times more than the estimation in the Allocation Questionnaire. The 2nd Defendant’s Bill of Costs amounted to £19,818.74 and this was settled by the Claimant in the sum of £17,800.

A preliminary hearing was listed in the SCCO for the determination of four issues: 1) whether there should be a limit to the costs claimed by the 1st and 3rd Defendants to the sums estimated in the Allocation Questionnaire, 2) what effect should the estimate have on the claim for costs, if any, 3) whether the costs claimed were disproportionate and 4) the hourly rates claimed. The Claimant’s solicitors came off records before the hearing and the Claimant represented himself at the hearing, as a litigant in person.

The Claimant maintained that the 1st and 3rd Defendants’ estimate of costs had been relied upon and as a consequence, there had been no need to increase the level of his insurance premium. Therefore, the costs allowed should be limited to the sums estimated in the Allocation Questionnaire.

Master Gordon-Saker concluded that the Defendants’ costs should be reduced as the Claimant had relied on this estimate of costs and because the estimate was so low and because the Defendants had failed to give a satisfactory explanation for the difference. The costs that were claimed were found to be disproportionate to the issues and the value of the action, especially as there were no complex legal issues and although it was reasonable for the Defendants to instruct specialist aviation solicitors, this was not a “City” case or “City” work and so it would be unreasonable for the Defendants to recover anything more than Central London rates.

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