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Too Little, Too Late: Masten v London Britannia Hotel Ltd [2020] EWHC B31 [Costs]

by Kenworthy's Chambers 13/01/2021

Margaret McDonald, Head of Civil & Costs at Kenworthy's Chambers, instructed by Pennington Manches Cooper LLP, successfully represented the Claimant in Masten v London Britannia Hotel Ltd [2020] EWHC B31 [Costs] in the Senior Courts Cost Office.

In Masten v London Britannia Hotel Ltd [2020] EWHC B31 [Costs] Master Leonard refused to set aside a default costs certificate. He stated that if a party cannot comply with a time limit the only prudent course of action is to apply, in advance, for an extension. To allow the time limit to pass, and any sanction to be effective, is a dangerous strategy. The setting aside of a default costs certificate is not a routine administrative matter.

The substantive action arises from an accident at the Defendant's Hotel on 16/06/16. The Claimant was staying at the Hotel in the course of her employment as a Presidential Appointee assigned as an Executive Assistant to the Presidential Envoy & US Ambassador to Iraq. Claimant was working at her desk when she pushed back her chair to stand up when the front legs of the chairs came away from the main frame & she fell and banged her head rendering her unconscious. The case settled at a Joint Settlement Meeting on 25/07/19 for US$450,000.

On 03/01/20 the claimant served a Notice of Commencement of a Bill of Costs in the sum of £363,549.28. Points of Dispute were due on 24/01/20. The parties agreed to extend time for service of the Points of Dispute to 14/02/20. A second extension was agreed with the PODs being due on 28/02/20 but this was not complied with.

Having warned the Defendant that the time limit had expired the Claimant applied for a Default Costs Certificate which was finally granted on 10/06/20.

An Application to Set Aside the Default Costs Certificate was finally issued on 26/08/20. The explanation for the delay was excessive workload and unsuccessful delegation.

In a considered reserved Judgment Master Leonard refused to set aside the Default Costs Certificate saying: ‘That avoidable delay, and the way in which it was allowed to come about, have led me to the conclusion that I should refuse this application.'

Find a full transcript of the Judgment here.