Court considers meaning of significant development for the purposes of amending costs budgets

In the case of Churchill -v- Boot (Lawtel 22/04/2016), Mr Justice Picken was asked to consider whether events in a case were sufficient to constitute ‘significant developments’ within the meaning of CPR Practice Direction 3E para 7.6.

The claim arose from a road traffic accident in 2009; it was alleged that the Claimant had suffered a head injury.

In 2014, the master made an order containing directions permitting the Claimant to rely upon the evidence of various experts. The order also approved costs budgets for the parties.

During the course of the claim, the Claimant was required to provide further disclosure (including educational and employment records); as a result the trial was delayed by 6 – 9 months. The master further ordered, in 2015, that the parties exchange updated medical reports.

Since the original pleadings were served, the Claimant’s pleaded case had doubled in value. Accordingly, the Claimant applied to the Court to amend his costs budget pursuant to CPR PD 3E para 7.6 (ie on the basis that ‘significant developments in the litigation warrant[ed] such revisions’); the Claimant submitted that the doubling of the pleaded value of the claim, the adjournment of the trial date, and the requirement for further disclosure were ‘significant developments’.

The master refused the Claimant’s application, on the basis that the events did not constitute a significant development; they were predictable developments which could have been foreseen at the time of the original budget.

On appeal, Picken J upheld the master’s original decision as he was not satisfied that there had been ‘significant developments’ in the case. The alleged developments were within the contemplation of the parties at the time that the original costs budgets were prepared. Disclosure of educational and employment records was routine in such cases. Further, the disciplines of experts required had been identified in 2014 and it had always been anticipated that the experts would be required to review documents obtained through disclosure; the additional updated reports were not a ‘significant development’.

The judge did comment that adjournment could potentially be a significant development, however in the instant case he was satisfied that it was not. There was no justification for interference with the master’s appropriate exercise of his discretion when considering the Claimant’s application.

This judgment will provide insurers with a useful authority when attempting to resist attempts to increase costs budgets. Only where developments in a case were truly outside the contemplation of the parties when initial budgets were prepared, will the Court permit budgets to be revised upwards.

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