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The courts have given claimant and defendant lawyers the green light to apply for each other's litigation costs to be capped for the first time.
Both sides will also be able to determine which level of fee-earner can perform certain tasks, such as letter writing, in order to control the other side's costs.
In the first case of its kind, Ledward v Kent & Medway Health Authority, which involved 59 claimants alleging rape by a consultant gynaecologist, the judge in the costs hearing Master Hurst ordered claimants' costs to be capped at £395,000 and the defendant's at £460,000.
Master Hurst said the claimants' law firm, Jane Loveday, had produced an analysis of its work that contained gross overestimates of the amount of work that still had to be done on the case. According to costs expert Jim Diamond of Legal Budgets, the case will have a knock-on effect on what clients are charged in litigation. "This is the beginning of the end of solicitors overcharging," said Diam-ond. "Now the courts can control costs, and this will have massive ramifications for what solicitors can charge their clients."