Are Claimants entitled to significant costs if they secure only modest damages?
Yes in principle, depending on the facts of the case, held the High Court in Marcura Equities v Nisomar Ventures Ltd.
The Claimants claimed damages and injunctive relief, alleging the Defendants procured confidential information from one of the Claimant's former employees and used the same without its permission.
The Defendant admitted possession of only some of the information but gave undertakings pending trial. It made a written settlement offer to discharge a quarter of the Claimant's then £108,000 costs, which was rejected.
The parties eventually settled on terms including a full injunction and £35,000 damages but left the question of costs, which had risen to £450,000, open to the Court.
The High Court, granting a costs order, determined -
a) Where it could ascertain which party had in effect succeeded and it was not disproportionate to do so, the Court could determine the issue of costs despite all other issues being settled;
b) The Defendant's offer to discharge a fraction of the Claimant's costs, even if proposing the undertakings continue, was insufficient to deny the Claimant even part of its costs;
c) The fact that the costs vastly exceeded damages obtained did not prevent an award being made given the "important delivery up and other injunctive relief that has been obtained".
Thanks to Barnaby Large of No.18 Barristers Chambers for preparing this case summary.