23 February 2016 #Dispute Resolution
The Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal in Sugar Hut Group –v- AJ Insurance, thereby allowing parties more confidence in predicting the consequences of a Part 36 offer. The case concerned a claim for damages arising from a fire at a nightclub that had featured prominently in “The Only Way is Essex”. The Defendant made a Part 36 offer of £250,000. The Claimant was awarded at trial damages of £277,000 – more than the Part 36 off but substantially less than the value of its claim.
It is settled law that there is no “near miss” rule for Part 36 offers. In other words, unless a Part 36 offer at least equals the sum awarded at trial the consequences of Part 36 will not follow. However, when deciding costs, the Trial Judge appeared to take the Part 36 offer into account. He made a general reduction of 30% of the Claimant’s costs to reflect the fact that the Claimant’s case had not been wholly successful. However, he also disallowed the Claimant’s costs entirely from the date of the Part 36 offer and ordered the Claimant to pay the Defendant’s costs from that date.
The Claimant was granted permission to appeal on the second part of the costs order. The Court of Appeal gave several reasons for allowing the appeal:
Having considered the matter afresh the Court of Appeal decided that the appropriate costs order would be a 30% reduction in the Claimant’s costs across the board. In other words, the Part 36 offer was to be disregarded entirely.
This case provides some welcome clarity because it removes the suggestion of a reintroduction of the near miss rule. When considering making a Part 36 offer a Defendant now knows that unless it is exceeds the value of damages awarded at trial it will not provide any costs protection at all.