In what is probably the first reported case following the Court of Appeal's landmark decision in Harrison, Master Campbell, sitting as a Deputy Master of the High Court, found that a 'good reason' to reduce hourly rates on assessment, in RNB v London Borough of Newham  EWHC B15 (Costs) (04 August 2017)
Master Campbell's decision is likely to raise eyebrows in many a quarters, because the thrust of both Merrix and the reasoning adopted by the Court in Harrison is that approved estimated costs are not “fair game” in the subsequent detailed assessment, absent a good reason pursuant to CPR 3.18. Both decisions also stressed the importance of the costs budgeting process. This decision is a throwback to the Pre-Jackson era of Detailed Assessments and one that negates the reason for costs budgeting in the first place.
RNB makes for stark reading, whilst the hourly rates claimed were prima facie high on the facts of that case they were arguably warranted. RNB concerned a revolving around abuse suffered by the Claimant in a local authority-run care home. Proceedings were issued, the Claimant was put to proof and the matter eventually settled five months after the CCMC for £250,000.00. It is the writer's humble view that in future Detailed Assessments, paying parties will now frequently cite the hourly rates claimed as a “good reason” to depart from the approved budgets.
This case was decided by an extremely experienced Costs Judge and it will certainly be interesting to see how this decision (albeit not binding) is interpreted at the District Judge level in the regional County Courts.
Costs judge finds 'good reason' to reduce hourly rates on assessment