Unreasonable behaviour pulled up by Court
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful” - Margaret J. Wheatley
In a refreshing decision in the County Court at Croydon, District Judge Gambril ordered the claimant to pay the defendant’s costs in the sum of £800 due to the claimant’s unreasonable behaviour.
This case demonstrates the benefit of making early, costs protective offers, something we have long advocated to our insurer clients. Partner and Director of Credit Hire Strategy, Melanie Mooney, summarises the case.
The claimant had, on 23rd February 2017, issued proceedings seeking to recover just over £5,000 for credit hire charges.
The defendant had, however, made an offer of just over £2000 in the May of the previous year. Once proceedings were issued, that offer was maintained, reiterated and a response chased on several occasions.
The matter progressed through the Small Claims Procedure but shortly before trial the claimant accepted the offer and advised the Court that the matter had settled, causing the hearing to be taken out of the Court list.
An application was made asking the Court to list the matter for a hearing to consider whether the claimant’s last minute acceptance of an offer, which was made some time prior to the issue of proceedings, constituted unreasonable behaviour.
At the hearing of the application Counsel for the claimant submitted that the claimant did not have enough information to evaluate the claim. Counsel for the defendant countered that with the offer, as demonstrated in the correspondence between the parties, was very clear and that the issuing of proceedings was simply a waste of expense and the Court’s time.
The District Judge asked themselves one simple question - had the claimant improved on the position in the offer?
They held that the claimant had not benefitted at all by the proceedings. There was no benefit to the claimant by raising the proceedings and therefore it was appropriate that the costs should be paid by the claimant to the defendant. Those costs were summarily assessed at £800.
What does it mean for insurers?
All too often we see claimants hiding behind the informal nature of the Small Claims Procedure whilst putting insurers and the Court to expense and time dealing with Court proceedings which ultimately provide no benefit to the claimant.
This decision comes as a stark warning that the type of behaviour shown in this case is unreasonable and will not be tolerated by the Court.