Costs: the ever pervasive spectre overshadowing legal proceedings, source of great consternation, argument and even their own actions.  One may say costs are a law unto themselves...

One aspect of the recent case of Americhem Europe Limited (Claimant) and Rakem Limited (Defendant and Part 20 Claimant) and George Walker Transport Limited (Third Party) [2014] EWHC 1881 (TCC) concerned costs budgets.  Whilst the facts of the underlying dispute were not relevant (they concerned the delivery of a metric tonne of the wrong chemical to the Claimant), an issue arose as the Defendant filed Precedent H (its costs budget) signed by an individual described as a “Costs Draftman”. 

Why is this an issue?  Under the Civil Procedure Rules, pursuant to Practice Direction 3E, such forms ought to be signed by a “senior legal representative”.  The term is not defined, however CPR2.3(1) does define “legal representative” and this was taken to mean someone providing legal advice and representing in a legal capacity, services a Costs Draftsman cannot be said to provide. 

However, this did not render the costs budget void as it was considered an irregularity.  Further, as no party had been significantly disadvantaged it was ordered to be remedied at the Defendant’s cost, with further costs (modest in the amount of £50) ordered in view of the matter being brought to the attention of the court.

A somewhat underwhelming outcome but, despite this being a technical legal procedural point, it is a good reminder that costs budgets are increasingly critical, and may be litigated in their own right, to the progress of legal proceedings in light of the Jackson reforms.  The case also highlights the latitude parties may be afforded for the correction of minor procedural defects and that such defects are not fatal, provided that parties are otherwise compliant.