What is a significant development for the purpose of amending a Cost Budget

The decision of Sharp v Blank and Others [2017] was handed down (Late December 2017).

This case consisted of seven claims subject to a group litigation order and where the claimants applied for a costs management order.

Total budgeted costs amounted to approximately £37 million. The defendants stated that significant developments required them to revise their budget and the claimants refused to agree to those revisions.

Practice Direction 3E para 7.6 provides that:
“Each party shall revise its budget in respect of future costs upwards or downwards, if significant developments in the litigation warrant such revisions …[In the absence of agreement between the parties] The court may approve, vary or disapprove the revisions having regard to any significant developments which have occurred since the date when the previous budget was approved or agreed”

It was decided that the court has jurisdiction when revising a budget under paragraph 7.6 to revise a budget taking the last agreed or approved budget as the base reference point when approving a revised budget where there have been significant developments, the court could approve costs relating to those developments even though they have been incurred before the date on which the court’s approval is given.

Significant developments

Change in Trial timetable

The costs budgets were prepared on the assumption that the trial would last 59 working days and not the 107 days the Trial was to last for.

Specific disclosure documentation received from claimants

An application for specific disclosure that resulted in the disclosure of 984 documents.

Medical report disclosed by the claimant

This was a further expert report filed by the claimant which was a change from the agreed basis on which expert evidence was to be provided.

Not significant developments

Claimants’ third party disclosure application

The master held that the claimants’ application for third-party disclosure was not a significant development, it is noted that 71 additional documents were produced

Questions put to defendants’ experts

In the master’s view, the questions put to the defendants’ experts were not significant developments.

Response from one of the claimants’ experts.

Though the response included a witness statement and two additional notes from experts, this was not a significant development

General Comment on Trial Timetable

A longer trial timetable was not of itself a good reason for a revision of the budget; however, the instant case was unusual in its scale and complexity hence why it was classified as a significant development.

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