Disbursements in fixed costs cases–are agency fees recoverable in casualty claims?

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Disbursements in fixed costs cases–are agency fees recoverable in casualty claims?

Published 12 March 2019

Since the introduction of the Low Value Protocol in casualty claims, in 2013, there have been a number of cases in relation to the level of fixed costs applicable, and where fixed costs apply.  The question of whether the fees incurred where agencies obtain medical records should be paid in casualty claims has been the subject of a recent judgment, Beardmore v Lancashire County Council, which was handed down by His Honour Judge Wood QC in the County Court at Liverpool.

The Claimant pursued a public liability claim against the Council, following a tripping incident.   Liability was not resolved within the portal process and the claim fell out of the portal and into the fixed recoverable costs regime set out in Rule 45.29 of the Civil Procedure Rules.   The claim was resolved within the fast track limit. The question arose  whether the Claimant's solicitors should be entitled to recover agency fees for the obtaining of medical records as a disbursement.

The Civil Procedure Rules expressly provide for the use of agencies in road traffic cases, Rule 45.29I(2A), allowing not more than £30.00 plus the direct cost of obtaining the records for each set of records, but do not make an express provision in this respect for employer’s liability and public liability cases.  On appeal from the decision of a District Judge, HHJ Wood QC considered in detail whether the use of an agency should be recovered in employers liability and public liability cases. Taking into account the fact that the rules do not exclude the recovery of such costs in such cases he decided that the sum of £30.00 plus the direct cost of obtaining records should be allowed for each set of records in EL and PL cases.

The effect of the judgment is to  allow a small increase to the fixed recoverable costs payable in these cases. However by limiting the agency fee to £30.00 plus the direct costs (plus VAT on the entirety of the disbursements) the Court has restricted the level of agency fees payable and, in circumstances where the fee paid to the provider of the records is less than £50.00, has limited the entirety of the disbursement to a level below that often claimed.

Moving forward where agency fees are claimed in fixed costs cases the disbursement should not exceed the cost of obtaining the records from the medical institution (limited to £50.00) plus £30.00 agency costs and VAT.

Authors

David Williams

David Williams

Leeds

+44 (0)113 251 4844

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