Home Office v Lownds (Practice Note): CA 21 Mar 2002

The respondent had been ordered to pay costs of over pounds 16,000 in an action for clinical negligence where the final award was only pounds 4,000. The Secretary of State appealed claiming that the costs were disproportionate.
Held: In such cases the court must undertake a two stage examination. First it should look at the proportionality of the claim, making allowance for the amount which might reasonably be thought could be awarded. If the overall amount was then seen as disproportionate, the court should look at each item claimed, and ask whether the work undertaken was necessary. If so, then the principle of proportionality need not override proper claims for payment. ‘what is required is a two-stage approach. There has to be a global approach and an item by item approach. The global approach will indicate whether the total sum claimed is or appears to be disproportionate having particular regard to the considerations which Part 44.5(3) states are relevant. If the costs as a whole are not disproportionate according to that test then all that is normally required is that each item should have been reasonably incurred and the cost for that item should be reasonable. If on the other hand the costs as a whole appear disproportionate then the court will want to be satisfied that the work in relation to each item was necessary and, if necessary, that the cost of the item is reasonable. If, because of lack of planning or due to other causes, the global costs are disproportionately high, then the requirement that the costs should be proportionate means that no more should be payable than would have been payable if the litigation had been conducted in a proportionate manner. This is turn means that reasonable costs will only be recovered for the items which were necessary if the litigation had been conducted in a proportionate manner’
The court adopted the following: ‘In modern litigation, with the emphasis on proportionality, there is a requirement for parties to make an assessment at the outset of the likely value of the claim and its importance and complexity, and then to plan in advance the necessary work, the appropriate level of person to carry out the work, the overall time which would be necessary and appropriate spend on the various stages in bringing the action to trial and the likely overall cost. While it was not unusual for costs to exceed the amount in issue, it was, in the context of modest litigation such as the present case, one reason for seeking to curb the amount of work done, and the cost by reference to the need for proportionality.’

Lord Woolf, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Dyson
Times 05-Apr-2002, Gazette 10-May-2002, [2002] EWCA Civ 365, [2002] 1 WLR 2450, [2002] CPLR 328, [2002] CP Rep 43, [2002] 2 Costs LR 279, [2002] 4 All ER 775
Civil Procedure Rules 44.5(3)
England and Wales
Cited by:
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CitedCoward v Harraden QBD 2-Dec-2011
Parties had fought each other in wide ranging litigation. The claimant found covert surveillance devices in his home, and discovered evidence that the defendant may have information as to who had placed them. Earlier orders had been made for the . .
CitedBrook v Reed CA 25-Mar-2011
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CitedCoventry and Others v Lawrence and Another SC 22-Jul-2015
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 18 December 2021; Ref: scu.170081