Those of you who are familiar now with the portal process may know the answer to the question – does responding to a settlement offer one day after the 15 working day time frame mean the offer is withdrawn or does it still stand?
This matter arises out of a road traffic accident which occurred on the 19 September 2011 where liability was admitted. The claimant originally pursued her claim through the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents, more commonly known as the 'Portal'. The claim fell out of the Portal process and the claimant issued proceedings for damages and costs.
Chronology of the case
The claimant submitted a claim via the Portal on the 27 September 2011. At this point the claim entered 'Stage 1' of the Portal. Stage 1 of the Portal was completed satisfactorily and the claim progressed to Stage 2.
At Stage 2 the claimant's solicitors submitted an offer for damages in the sum of GBP 2,900.
The offer was submitted on the 15 November 2011 and a response fell due 15 business days later on the 6 December 2011. The defendant's insurers responded to the offer one day out of time on the 7 December 2011, by email, accepting the offer of GBP 2,900.
If the defendant does not respond to the offer within the 15 days the claim must fall out of the Portal (this is not discretionary) and thereafter fixed costs no longer apply. The defendant's insurers acknowledged this and in the email accepting the offer offered to pay predictive costs less the Stage 1 costs already paid. At this point the claimant's solicitors were only entitled to predictive costs as proceedings had not been issued.
The claimant's solicitor did not respond to the acceptance and issued proceedings on the 19 December 2011.
In the course of those proceedings the defendant's solicitors made an Application for Summary Judgment under Part 24 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The defendant's argument was that even though the matter fell out of the Portal on 7 December, the offer made at Stage 2 remained open for acceptance.
The claim had settled on acceptance of the offer. As the claim was settled pre-issue the claimant's solicitors are only entitled to predictive costs which had been offered by the defendant's insurers.
The claimant opined that the Portal is a self contained process and any offers made within this process expire as soon as it falls outside.
Judgment handed down by District Judge Hovington
District Judge Hovington found that there was no fundamental reason why a claimant's offer made whilst a claim is proceeding under the provisions of the Protocol should not remain open after the claim itself had ceased to be subject to the procedural provisions of the protocol.
He found the offer made by the claimant was amenable to acceptance as at the 7 December 2011 and that the defendant did indeed accept it, thereby incurring a liability to pay the agreed sum of GBP 2,900 by way of damages and an obligation to pay costs pursuant to Part 45 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.
ORDER that there be summary judgment for the defendant and the claim be struck out. The claimant was ordered to pay our costs of the proceedings.
- Offers made within the portal scheme remain capable of being accepted once the claim has left the scheme.
- Offers do not automatically lapse on cases exiting the portal.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.