McDonnell v McDonnell: CA 1977

In family proceedings, a costs letter had been written in the form suggested in Calderbank.
Held: The court accepted and endorsed the practice suggested by Cairns LJ. Ormrod LJ said: ‘The important factor which distinguishes this case is the fact that the appellant husband’s solicitors took advantage of a recent decision of this court in Calderbank v. Calderbank. On December 16, 1975, shortly after serving the notice of appeal, they wrote a letter to the wife’s solicitors offering to withdraw the appeal altogether if the wife would agree to a modification of Mrs. Justice Lane’s order in respect of the house. In accordance with the procedure suggested in Calderbank, they headed the letter ‘Without Prejudice’ but reserved the right to bring it to the attention of the court after judgment on the question of costs.’
and ‘Clearly this is a very important consideration in exercising the court’s discretion with regard to costs.It would be wrong, in my judgment, to equate an offer of compromise in proceedings such as these [ancillary proceedings following a divorce] precisely to a payment into court. I see no advantage in the court surrendering its discretion in these matters as it has to all intents and purposes done where a payment into court has been made. A Calderbank offer should influence but not govern the exercise of the discretion. The question to my mind is whether, on the basis of the facts known to the wife and her advisers and without the advantage of hindsight, she ought reasonably to have accepted the proposals in the letter of December 16, bearing always in mind the difficulty of making accurate forecasts in cases such as this. On the other hand, parties who are exposed to the full impact of costs need some protection against those who can continue to litigate with impunity under a civil aid certificate.’
Ormrod LJ
[1977] 1 WLR 34
England and Wales
ApprovedCalderbank v Calderbank CA 5-Jun-1975
Letter Without Prejudice Save as to Costs
Husband and wife disputed provision under 1973 Act, and a summons under section 17 of the 1882 Act. The wife had offered to transfer a house to H occupied by his mother, worth about pounds 12,000, in return for him leaving the matrimonial home. He . .

Cited by:
CitedButcher v Wolfe and Another CA 30-Oct-1998
The parties had been partners in a family farm. On dissolution there was a dispute as to apportionment of costs. An offer had been ‘without prejudice save as to costs’.
Held: Costs may be denied to a plaintiff who had received a Calderbank . .
CitedNorris v Norris, Haskins v Haskins CA 28-Jul-2003
The court considered how orders for costs were to be made in ‘big money’ cases.
Held: There were two sets of rules. Cases should be considered by first applying the Civil Procedure Rules. This would allow the court to consider the full range . .
CitedGojkovic v Gojkovic (No 2) CA 1-Apr-1991
In ancillary relief proceedings, the husband had not made frank disclosure of his assets. The final Calderbank offer of andpound;600,000 was made only the day before the substantive hearing. The offer was rejected. The judge awarded the wife a lump . .
CitedCutts v Head and Another CA 7-Dec-1983
There had been a trial of 35 days regarding rights of way over land, which had proved fruitless, and where some orders had been made without jurisdiction. The result had been inconclusive. The costs order was now appealed, the plaintiff complaining . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 16 October 2021; Ref: scu.186057