Let’s talk about civil litigation costs

It’s a topic that comes up for discussion time and again: civil litigation costs. The senior judiciary is pushing for proportionate costs in the civil courts. That was the mission given to Lord Justice Jackson when he was asked to look into the area all the way back in 2008.

Like it or not, the Jackson reforms – as they have since become known – have seeped into every crevice in the civil litigation world. The impact has been seen in the consolidation of the personal injury market, the changing nature of the litigation funding sector, the Mitchell libel question, and, today, plans to raise the costs budgeting regime from £2m to £10m.

It all points to a judiciary that is cracking down on what it sees as spiralling costs.

One dispute under the microscope is the mammoth group litigation order fought against the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) by shareholders over the bank’s 2008 rights issue. It’s one of the leading cases of the year, and already costs are becoming an issue.

Mr Justice Hildyard has examined exactly how costs should be divided between the two lead groups of claimants, led by Stewarts Law and Bird & Bird.

2Birds came in for criticism over how it had calculated the value of the claim, but with Quinn Emanuel and Leon Kaye waiting on the sidelines to get a piece of the action, the judge said the firm could be forgiven for the confusion.

With RBS expected to rack up a bill of £42m, £30m of which could end up being shouldered by the claimants, this is one cake that needs to be properly sliced.

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