No.14 of 2001
Morris v Wiltshire & Woodspring District Council
30 November 2001
Mr Justice Roderick Evans sitting with Assessors
Following the decision of Mr Justice Jacob in Morris v Wiltshire & Woodspring District Council (No.1) (Review Case No.3 of 1998) that it was permissible for a litigant in person to have leave to withdraw a bill and to amend it, the claimant, as he has now become, did that in this case. The matter had been referred to a Costs Judge, who, on 1 February 1999, assessed the claimant’s costs at £11,887. The defendant, having made previously unaccepted offers of £8,000 and £10,000 respectively, made a "final" offer on 16 February 1998 in the following terms:
"We now have our clients’ instructions to offer you in full settlement of your claim for costs in the amended bill the sum of £14,000. Against this [we] will of course offset the two amounts you have agreed to pay in respect of our clients’ costs on the two Chancery matters which remain struck out."
Following the Costs Judge’s decision to award £11,887, there was argument as to costs, the defendants successfully contending that the claimant had failed to beat their offer of £14,000, and should therefore pay their costs on the assessment of the amended bill, at least from the date of that payment in.
The claimant appealed, and in a detailed judgment the learned Judge decided two separate but important points.
Firstly, he held that the "old" rules, that is to say those contained in the RSC, governed this appeal, because it was the original taxation of 1996 that was still continuing, albeit under a revised bill, and therefore the claimant did not need permission to take the matter to review. However his Lordship held that even if that was wrong, on the facts he would have granted permission to appeal under CPR.
The second point which the Judge decided was that the letter quoted above did not include interest, and, following the decision of Mr Justice Vinelott in Bell v Mahoney  17 May, unreported, but quoted in Hoffman’s Civil Costs Cases Taxation Handbook, interest was not to be deemed to be included unless expressly referred to.
Applying the normal rules as to the incidence of interest the Judge concluded that, although the final figures were not before him, when the interest was added on the claimant would have beaten the payment in of £14,000, and accordingly the order of the Costs Judge that the claimant should pay the defendant’s costs of the assessment of the amended bill was reversed, which will doubtless involve yet further proceedings before the Costs Judge.