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Points of Dispute Process for Legal Costing

20th January 2012
By Lauren Laverne in Legal
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In regards to court proceedings particularly with regard to litigation a legal document called a bill of costs will be prepared for the case and this will ultimately be paid between the defendant and claimant, either partly or fully depending on the outcome. The Bill is an itemised list of the expenses run up during a case by both parties. As a document it changes over the life of a court case as new items are added to it as more expenses are incurred.

At any point in the case Points of Dispute over the items in the bill can be raised. A the end of the case when the Bill of Costs is finished and a decision is made on who is responsible for its payment these points are brought up and if disputed the following process happens:

Step 1: Receipt of the Bill of Costs

After the case is over and the Bill of Costs is sent out the solicitors for both parties will write to each other acknowledging the receipt of the bill of costs and each Point of Dispute is then raised with the other. Points of dispute that have been raised are then also communicated to each client along with the next course of action whatever that may be.

Now if either side no longer wishes to dispute the items that have been raised the Points of Dispute have been settled and agreement has been reached and we can go onto the penultimate step.

Step 2: Points of Dispute Reviewed

If the Points of Dispute are maintained then each side will carry out a full and proper analysis of the matters in dispute, ultimately where any points have been disputed then the aim of the solicitor is to investigate the validity of such a claim and inform and advise their client accordingly without the points ultimately remaining and so the need for a detailed assessment hearing which is in no-one’s interest.

In the information communicated a bracket area for settlement will be included. A solicitor may advise their client to make an interim payment for the bill regarding items that are not in dispute. Points have a due date before which they must be settled by both parties during this time it is the aim of each solicitor to reach a compromise agreement with the aim of the responsibility of the bill for their client being kept to a reasonable minimum.

If this date is reached then the period for settlement is over. Further information is requested where applicable.

Step 3: Request for More Information

As settlement still has not been agreed each side will serve the opposing party the Points that remain unagreed and follow the instructions of their client. Interim payments can be made at this point where points have now been settled. Each side will then ensure the Bill has been served correctly and is not defective.

Information that has been requested can be declined by the opposing solicitor in which case the relating Points of Dispute are served as well as a Part 18 request for further information. If the information is not passed overt voluntarily then appropriate application can be made to the court subject to the client’s approval.

Step 4: Points of Dispute finally considered by both parties

A court order can then be issued for this information. If there is no response within 6 months then the solicitor requesting the information has a right to make an application to the court for the costs to be struck out on behalf of the client.

Otherwise any information received or response from the opposing solicitor is considered and then each client is advised accordingly. At this point based on analysis of this new information Points of Dispute are either resolved amended accordingly or remain intact as they are. If a counter offer is made this will be reviewed. If this involves the possibility of resolution then the two parties will again try to reach a final agreement. If this happens then the final steps for agreement are carried out.

If the dispute of points still remains then a request can be made by either side to apply for a detailed assessment hearing for the court to make a final decision.

Final Step A – Agreement.

The penultimate possible step is when the Points of Dispute have been resolved and the matter is settled. Both solicitors will write to their client notifying them of the steps regarding payment of the Bill of Costs they are responsible for. This includes letting their client know the portion of the Bill of Costs they are to pay and how to precede with the payments. Confirmation of the agreement is communicated including the timescales for any payments to be made.

Final Step B – Detailed Assessment Hearing

If agreement has not been reached then the only option now is for the Points of Dispute to be adjudicated by the court. A date is set for a detailed assessment hearing. A directions order will then be sent by the court to both parties who must now meet with a view to limiting the disputed points at hand and coming to some kind of agreement. Together both parties now supply the court with a joint memorandum statement that sets out the final points of dispute for the court to resolve.

Both views with relation to the Points of dispute and then offered to an assessing officer at a detailed assessment hearing. Both sides will try to argue not just in their favour but that reasonable attempts have been made to resolve the dispute. Finally a judgement is made and all parties must abide by that decision.

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