Replies to Points of Dispute are governed by 47.13 of the Civil Procedure Rules and should be formatted in a similar way to Points of Dispute. Points of Dispute and Replies to Points of Dispute are a method used for disputing legal costs in detailed assessment.
Points of Dispute and Points of Reply: The Process of Detailed Assessment
The receiving party will initiate the process of Detailed Assessment by serving their Bill of Costs alongside a Notice of Commencement on the paying party. The paying party will have 21 days from the date of service to serve their Points of Dispute. In the event that the paying party do not submit their Points of Dispute, the receiving party will be able to apply for a Default Costs Certificate.
The Points of Dispute should closely follow the Precedent G format and will briefly outline the nature and grounds of dispute for each item disputed within the Bill of Costs.
Following receipt of the Points of Dispute, the receiving party must submit their replies to Points of Dispute within 21 days, providing counter arguments for any disputes raised. The parties should attempt to negotiate the items in the bill and come to an agreement using the Points of Dispute and Points of Reply.
If an agreement cannot be reached using this process, the case will proceed to a Detailed Assessment Hearing or Provisional Assessment Hearing, depending on the value of the Bill. During this Hearing, a Costs Judge will consider the Points of Dispute and replies to Points of Dispute to assess the costs and will make a decision on each point depending on what he considers reasonable.
It is possible to appeal any decision made during the course of a detailed assessment hearing in accordance with CPR 47.22.
Any appeal notice (N161) must be lodged with a costs judge or a district judge of the High Court within 21 days of the date of the detailed assessment decision (or Court of Appeal if the initial assessment takes place in the High Court). Directions will be given thereafter, and a copy of the Appeal notice served upon any other parties to proceedings.
How to Prepare Replies to Points of Dispute
Under CPR 47.13, Points of Dispute and Replies to Points of Dispute should follow the Precedent G format. The receiving party should go through each disputing point and provide their counter argument for each.
Practice Direction 47.8 states that:
“Points of dispute must be short and to the point. They must follow Precedent G in the Schedule of Costs Precedents annexed to this Practice Direction, so far as practicable. They must:
(a) identify any general points or matters of principle which require decision before the individual items in the Bill are addressed; and
(b) identify specific points, stating concisely the nature and grounds of dispute.
Once a point has been made it should not be repeated but the item numbers where the point arises should be inserted in the left hand box as shown in Precedent G.”
The importance of drafting short, concise Points of Dispute and replies was shown in the case of Mead v British Airways PLC (Manchester County Court 15/01/18). The paying party drafted one single point over seven pages within their Points of Dispute. The receiving party replied with a point drafted over two pages. The point was dismissed by the Court and the Judge accepted the receiving party’s position. This case has highlighted the importance of drafting “short and to the point” points of dispute and points of reply as costs for time spent drafting points and replies will not be recoverable.
If points do not follow the “short and to the point” rule the Judge may ask you to redraft your points or replies.
The Importance of Submitting Points of Reply on Time
If you receive Points of Dispute, it is extremely important that you provide replies to those points in an attempt to negotiate and reach an agreement on costs before proceeding to a Detailed or Provisional Assessment Hearing as the Judge is likely to rule in favour of the paying party in the absence of any Points of Reply.
If Points of Reply are not submitted within 21 days of receipt of the Points of Dispute, the paying party may seek to disallow any costs associated with the drafting of the late Points of Reply as shown in the case of Pipe v Electrothermal Engineering Ltd (SCCO, 2014).
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist?
The Legal Practice Support team are always happy to help or advise on any costs issues through the process of Detailed Assessment, including the preparation of Points of Dispute and Points of Reply.
We can prepare Points of Dispute/ Reply within seven days of instruction on the majority of cases, and have fixed fees for all preparatory work. We provide our services and assistance to both law firms and Litigants in Person.
Our team of Costs Lawyers and Costs Draftsmen can represent you at detailed assessment hearings irrespective of whether you are the paying party or the receiving party.
If you would like to find out more about our law costs draftsman service, please visit the legal costs section on our website.
Our Costs Director, Robert Collington, can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01204 930234.