26 January 2015

Case Note: Appellate court not to ‘tinker’ with costs budget management decision of lower court

In Oliver Havenga (a Child suing by his Litigation Friend and Mother Julie Havanga) v Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside Hospitals NHS Trust [2014] EWHC B25 (QB) HHJ Freedman, the Designated Civil Judge for Newcastle Upon Tyne, and sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, rejected the Claimant's appeal to overturn the costs management decision of DJ Kramer reducing its costs budget from £769,854 to £463,915.

HHJ Freedman reminded himself that the Court of Appeal has frequently said that an appellate court should be slow to interfere with a case management decision and "that this must be more particularly so in the context of assessment/budgeting of costs where the judge (inevitably) has a very wide discretion". HHJ Freedman considered that the District Judge had acted within the boundaries of the wide ambit of his discretion in that the revised budget was reasonable and proportionate. It was not the role of an appellate court "to tinker with costs budgets". In the circumstances, the appeal was dismissed.

Whilst not binding Court of Appeal authority, the decision of HHJ Freedman, in his capacity as a Designated Civil Judge, is very persuasive, and quite properly sets out the approach the Court of Appeal has adopted in relation to case management decisions, and more particularly the wide ambit of discretion in relation to costs orders.