The claim in this case was for £805,675. The claimant's cost budget produced at the first CMC was in the overall sum of £824,000, and stated that £310,000 had already been spent. Stuart-Smith J held that costs budgeting reviews should normally be carried out quickly, adopting a broad brush approach. However, this was an exceptional case, which justified a more detailed approach, because the aggregate sum was "so disproportionate to the sums at stake or the length and complexity of the case". However, he rejected the defendant's argument that the other party's costs budget (in this case, £455,554) should be used as a starting point, because: "different parties to litigation have different roles and responsibilities which are likely to distort one party's costs when compared with those of another: the obvious example is that in some cases the Claimants have to make the running in preparing and presenting the case while the Defendant "can sit and snipe on the sidelines"".
Having concluded that the budget here was unreasonable, the judge went on to consider the 4 options considered by Coulson J in CIP Properties v Galliford (see Weekly Update 10/15): (1) order a new budget; (2) decline to approve the budget; (3) set budget figures; or (4) refuse to allow further costs. Like Coulson J, the judge here found that option (3) was the best solution to adopt and he concluded that the incurred costs/approved costs budget should be £425,000.
The judge also advised that, although "it is hard to imagine anything more sterile than arguing about a grossly excessive costs estimate", the defendant had been justified spending the effort and expense which it had in making a detailed attack on the claimant's grossly excessive costs estimate.