RTA Claim which started in the Portal not restricted to fixed costs as the Claimant was a Protected Party
Our Helena Nkansah reports on a recent victory at a preliminary issue hearing where the Defendant had argued that fixed costs should apply where a claim had been entered on the Portal but later exited due to the Protected status of the Claimant. The County Court found in favour of the Claimant given the exceptional circumstances. The case also highlights the importance of ensuring careful consideration is given to whether a claim is ever suitable for the Portal.
The claim related to a young girl with severe disabilities who was injured in a Road Traffic Accident. The case had commenced on the Portal but later exited, due to the Protected status of the Claimant and specific additional complexities. The case settled post-issue for damages of circa £10,000.00.
Partners in Costs were instructed to deal with the issue of costs. Upon service of the formal Bill of Costs, the Defendant attempted to argue that fixed costs applied due to the matter starting in the Portal.
It was the Claimant’s argument that whilst this matter started in the Portal, it should never have entered it. The Claimant was a minor and also a Protected Party by definition CPR 21.1(2).
The Defendant continued to argue that Fixed Costs should apply, on the basis of the Claimant’s argument not being a valid enough reason.
Following a preliminary hearing, the County Court accepted that the Claimant was a Protected Party. The Judge held that it was also reasonable for the case to come out of the protocol procedure for reasons of complexity. The Court found that even if the issues had been resolved later, at the time the steps were taken, it was reasonable for the case to come out of the protocol procedure. Subsequently, it was held that the Claimant was not limited to fixed costs.
In relation to complexities, the relevant factors were that the Claimant was a child and lacked mental capacity. In this instance, the Defendant attempted to rely on the rules relating to the pre-action protocol. This inherently required the whole process to have been validly conducted under that ‘jurisdiction’, although it was clear from the protocol itself, that it did not apply to Protected Parties at all.
In order to avoid any arguments pertaining to fixed costs, if the Claimant is a Protected Party, then it is best to avoid putting the matter through the portal. as it is not required. This is only a first instance decision and consequently is only persuasive and not binding but it does, none-the-less, extend optimism for those who find themselves in a similar situation.
If you have any queries arising from this case, then please do not hesitate to contact Helena Nkansah who can provide practical advice.