The High Court held in Marcura Equities v. Nisomar Ventures Ltd that, in principle, claimants are entitled to an award of significant costs even where they secure only modest damages.
The Claimants alleged that the Defendants procured and used confidential information from the Claimants’ former employee without its permission. Subsequently, the Claimant sought injunctive relief to protect its confidential information, delivery up and damages in excess of £200,000.
A settlement was eventually reached by the parties, which included a full injunction and £35,000 of damages. However, the parties left the question of costs open to the court (the Claimants’ costs were in the region of £450,000).
The Defendants relied upon the case of Medway Primary Care Trust v. Sebastian Marcus  (a personal injury case), and argued that the settlement of £35,000 was so modest it could not justify awarding the Claimant its costs. However, the judge stated that the personal injury case of Medway, where the only relief sought is damages, is very different from a confidential information case, where monetary claims are only part of the relief sought.
The High Court considered the following when determining costs in the matter:
- the Court could determine costs where it could ascertain who the successful party was in a settlement, and where it was not disproportionate to do so;
- there were no features in the Defendants’ offers made, nor any features of the conduct of the Claimants, which would make some other order appropriate; and
- the range of the relief sought and the range of relief obtained under the settlement.
In light of all of the above, the Court considered it proportionate that the Claimants recover the whole of their costs.
The case, whilst fact specific, is a helpful reminder that the court can (and does) award costs even where they are significant in comparison with the monetary aspect of a settlement, especially where damages are but one of multiple remedies sought.