Fixed costs: more fix, less cost

The courts have been concerned for some time about costs in litigation spiralling ever upwards. The press love to highlight legal cases where costs are many times the damages awarded. The imposition of fixed costs for certain cases in recent years has gone some way to controlling that. The Government has now announced that the fixed costs regime is to be extended still further.

In a recent consultation paper, the Ministry of Justice stated: “We are keen to extend the fixed recoverable costs regime to as many civil cases as possible”. It wants to control the costs of civil cases, it said, so that “legal costs are more certain from the start”. This would mean that “people will be able to make more informed decisions on whether to take or defend legal action.”

A cynic might say that judges have been putting pressure on the Government to stop so many costs disputes coming before them. The judiciary are known to dislike costs disputes, and the messy arguments they involve. Top judges have repeatedly called for fixed costs across the fast-track (claims up to £25,000) and the ‘lower reaches’ of the multi-track.