Judge concerned over rising costs of court battle
Parties in the epic Bates v Post Office litigation battle have been warned their costs will continue to be closely scrutinised, after the bill edged towards an estimated £25m. A Law Gazette report notes that in Bates & Ors v Post Office Ltd (No.5: Common Issues Costs), Justice Fraser said his concerns over costs have increased this year, with the Post Office’s costs now exceeding £13m and the claimants’ outlay, backed by third-party funding, said to be similar. His latest judgment was to decide whether to award interim costs based on one of several trials in the litigation. The claimants were largely successful in this particular trial and will be paid more than £4.5m. It was revealed in the judgment that the parties originally agreed to report to the court whenever their costs increased by £250 000: this threshold has now been doubled because reports came in so frequently. Fraser said it was ‘entirely conventional’ for costs orders to be made where litigation was dealt with in stages. He added: ‘The claimants would not be on an equal footing with the Post Office, a publicly funded body, if I reserved the costs of the Common Issues trial until the very end of the litigation.’ Noting that the Post Office succeeded on seven of the 23 common issues on trial, he awarded the claimants, who are backed by Therium Capital, their costs subject to a 10% reduction.