Court of Appeal takes a strict interpretation of the RTA Protocol

In J C and A Solicitors Ltd v Andeen Iqbal & Another [2017] EWCA Civ 355 the Court of Appeal overturned a decision by District Judge Phillips in the County Court at Cardiff, where he had ruled that insurers could recover Stage 1 costs that had been paid when the protocol Claimants had subsequently failed to advance their claims in the prescribed Stage 2 manner.

Whilst the ratio of the judgment appears to be of limited application, particularly as the RTA Protocol was amended in 2013 to provide that Stage 1 costs are only payable after the submission of the settlement pack, the obiter will have a much further reach.

Giving the Court’s unanimous judgment, Lord Justice Briggs noted that “the RTA Protocol is a clear, detailed and precise code, negotiated between sophisticated stakeholder groups under the auspices of the Civil Justice Council, into which the court should be slow to imply terms”. Lord Justice Briggs also thought it appropriate to address the District Judge’s suggestion that the original Stage 1 costs of £400 were “generous”, issuing a reminder that, as well as completing the Claim Notification Form, Claimant lawyers need to make various enquires before they sign the statement of truth and the working reality that fixed costs regimes involve “swings and roundabouts, in which the benefits of certainty are perceived usually to outweigh the disadvantages and disproportionality inherent in having costs payable for such work assessed, either summarily or in detail”.

The decision clearly supports a strict approach to both the RTA Protocol and fixed costs regimes in general and may well deter judges from departing from the prescribed rules on the basis of outside factors. 

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