30 January 2023
SCCO Appeals and Challenges
Author: Stephanie Kaye
The PDF continue to look for opportunities to challenge inconsistencies on assessment at the SCCO. We ask you to keep reviewing your assessed Bills for decisions which could be appealed. The PDF are particularly interested in reductions to costs claimed for arranging payments (including checking the bank statement, arranging the payment, updating the records, etc) and also reductions to costs considered ‘litigation support’ when the Deputy is working alongside the litigator in relation to a negligence claim. Please let Stephanie Kaye know if you come across an assessed bill with a reduction of this nature and she can consider the suitability of the case and explain the potential next steps. Please also contact Stephanie if you have any other inconsistent outcomes which may be of interest to the PDF.
What is the process?
When a Bill of Costs is assessed by the SCCO, it is considered a ‘provisional assessment’. You have 21 days from the date of receipt of the assessment to decide whether to challenge the outcome. This challenge is known as a Request for Reassessment. This process is informal and requires a letter to the Costs Officer who undertook the original assessment to highlight what exactly the Deputy wishes to be reconsidered. This is often one or two things within the Bill where the Costs Officer may have been particularly harsh or has misunderstood the circumstances of how or why that work was done. The Costs Officer will review the request and adjust the Bill of Costs if they agree with your observations. Ordinarily, the Costs Officer will accept where they have been too harsh based on what you bring to their attention and will allow a compromise, increasing the costs allowed. It’s unlikely that the Costs Officer will allow the costs in full as claimed, but it’s not impossible. The Costs Officer may disagree with your representations and may consider that the costs they awarded originally were fair, therefore not changing the assessment outcome. Furthermore, there is a risk that you may bring something to the Costs Officer’s attention which results in the Bill of Costs being reduced further, but this is very unlikely. After the Costs Officer has reconsidered the outcome, they will return the Bill of Costs. Any further challenges must be dealt with by a Costs Judge. They will usually only deal with challenges of this nature by way of a hearing.
What happens at a hearing?
If the Deputy is not happy with the outcome of the reconsideration, or the PDF are interested in the case to challenge a point of principle/inconsistency at the SCCO, an oral hearing is requested using the Form N258B alongside the reasons for which the hearing is requested. This information is submitting via the e-filing portal. The matter will be listed for a hearing, usually for one hour or for half a day depending on the complexity of the issue. Ordinarily, the hearing notice will outline if the Judge would like a bundle to be submitted. If further paperwork is requested by the Judge, this is to be e-filed in advance of the hearing. The hearing will ordinarily be listed as a telephone hearing or by MS Teams. At the hearing, the Judge will hear representations made by the party as to why they think further costs should be awarded. The Judge is required to give reasoning orally as to how they reach their decision. It is possible to request a transcript of the hearing for a fee, but this is not a Judgment.
What should I do if I receive an assessment which I think is unfair?
Please contact the PDF within 21 days of receipt. The PDF are willing to fund appeals where the outcome could impact all professional Deputies. Please contact Stephanie Kaye directly. firstname.lastname@example.org