A double helping of good news for all those practitioners bound by fixed recoverable costs (FRC), which addresses longstanding imperfections in the system.

As of 6 April 2024, the Government has announced that the rules pertaining to FRC will change to tackle two important anomalies.  Firstly, that advocates should be paid for work done where cases are vacated or settle close to trial and, secondly, that advocacy fees, which were last fixed in 2013, should be uprated to reflect inflation.

The net result of these changes is:

  • FRC for advocacy fees in civil case will see a 23.5% increase.  The changes will be incorporated at Table 12 (fast track), Table 14 (intermediate track), and Table 15 (NIHIL claims) of PD 45; and
  • Counsel will be paid for work done in cases that are vacated or settle late in the day.  The changes, which will be at Tables 12 and 14 of PD 45, have been done on a sliding scale as follows:
    • On the fast track, 100% of the advocacy fee will be recoverable where a claim is settled or vacated on the day of trial or the day before trial, and that 75% of the applicable advocacy fee will be recoverable where a claim is settled or vacated not more than two days before the trial date; and
    • On the intermediate track, the appropriate amount will be 100% of the applicable advocacy fee on the day of, or the day before, trial, and 75% where a claim is settled or vacated not more than five days before the day of trial.

The reason for the difference in the abated advocacy fee between the fast and intermediate track is simply a reflection of the greater complexity and longer preparation generally required in intermediate track cases.

But the good news does not stop there!  There are further changes which will affect those practitioners undertaking clinical negligence and inquest work.

In an important clarification, CPR 26.9(10)(b) is to be amended.  The Government has concluded that the rule on clinical negligence claims subject to FRC should make explicit that where a claim for clinical negligence may be allocated to the intermediate track, rather than the multi-track, there should be a full and early admission of liability within the pre-action protocol letter of response.  This will ensure that only appropriate medical negligence cases are assigned to the intermediate track.

Finally, in respect of the recoverability of inquest costs, the Government will amend CPR 45.1(9) to address the principle that these should be recoverable, but only  to the extent that they would be anyway, outside of FRC.  This brings those cases lying inside the regime in line with those outside of it.

Further details of the Ministry of Justice response paper, published on 1 February 2024, can be found on this link.