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Recoverability of Inquest Costs in Civil Claims

Costs Lawyer

John Plunkett, Costs Lawyer

A much anticipated Judgment handed down by Master Rowley on 14th November 2014 in Lynch-v-(1) Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police (2) Warwickshire County Council & (3) Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust, finally seeks to refine the principles set out by Davis J in Roach-v-Home Office [2009] EWHC 312 (QB); when dealing with the recoverability of Inquest Costs against Paying Parties in Civil Proceedings.

Following the murder of Colette Lynch by a former Partner in 2005; her Mother on behalf of her Estate, Brother and Children all brought a Civil Claim against the Defendants for the recoverability of damages. An Inquest subsequently took place in 2009 and lasted some three and a half months. Undisclosed damages were ultimately agreed between the Parties and in 2012 settlement was reached without the need for Trial.

A Bill of Costs was thereafter served on behalf of the successful Claimants seeking recoverability of costs in the sum of £1.5m. Contained within such Bill of Costs was a claim for £750,000 worth of Pre-Inquest and Inquest Costs. The Defendants disputed the Claimants’ entitlement to recover costs relating to the Pre-Inquest and Inquest Hearing. The principles set out in Roach-v-Home Office [2009] EWHC 312 (QB) allowed successful Claimants justification in seeking recoverability of Inquest Costs which may well have been incurred in evidence gathering to support the Civil Proceedings. Unfortunately; no clear guidance as to which items may be recoverable was provided at the time.

Considering Roach-v-Home Office [2009] EWHC 312 (QB) and other similar case law, Master Rowley found at Paragraph 65 that it was “inconceivable that the approach adopted by the Claimants in this case would be upheld as a proportionate method of bringing these claims to a civil hearing. No case managing judge would allow sums of the magnitude claimed here to be spent in the working up of the claim before the close of pleadings in the court proceedings.”

In summary; those items allowed and disallowed can be categorised as follows:-

Allowed

  • Periods when the Claimants’ witnesses are giving evidence (Junior Counsel or Senior Solicitor attendance only)
  • Periods when no questions were being asked by the Claimant (Junior Counsel or Senior Solicitor attendance only)
  • Periods when witnesses not directly involved are giving evidence (Junior Counsel or Senior Solicitor attendance only)
  • Period when Defendant’s systems witness evidence is being given (Junior Counsel or Senior Solicitor attendance only)
  • Period when witnesses in other proceedings were giving evidence (Junior Solicitor or Note Taker attendance only)

Disallowed

  • Time spent assisting the Coroner
  • Housekeeping
  • Pre-Inquest Hearings
  • Procedural matters
  • Summing up
  • Witness evaluation
  • Questions to the Jury
  • The Verdict

Although this Judgment is awfully helpful to Defendants, Master Rowley did make clear at Paragraph 3 that “It is not for me to lay down any form of general guidelines and the conclusions in this judgment relate to this case alone.”

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