Ritter v Godfrey: CA 1920

The trial judge had refused to award costs to a successful defendant in a clinical negligence action. He was mainly influenced in this regard by the attitude the defendant had adopted in response to a letter before action, which, in the words of the headnote to the report, he had written in a tone of levity and in somewhat insulting terms.
Held: The court reviewed ealier cases and decided that the costs order should be overruled: ‘It is not easy to deduce from these authorities what the precise principles are that are to guide a judge in exercising his discretion over costs. And yet as the discretion is only to be exercised where there are materials upon which to exercise it, it seems important to ascertain the principles upon which a judge is to discern whether the necessary materials exist. In the case of a wholly successful defendant, in my opinion the judge must give the defendant his costs unless there is evidence that the defendant (1.) brought about the litigation, or (2.) has done something connected with the institution or the conduct of the suit calculated to occasion unnecessary litigation and expense, or (3.) has done some wrongful act in the course of the transaction of which the plaintiff complains.’


Atkin LJ


[1920] 2 KB 47


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedCorner House Research, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry CA 1-Mar-2005
The applicant sought to bring an action to challenge new rules on approval of export credit guarantees. The company was non-profit and founded to support investigation of bribery. It had applied for a protected costs order to support the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 26 May 2022; Ref: scu.223257