If I withdraw my claim do I have to pay costs to my opponent?

Judith Thompson

Philip Green has been ordered to pay £3 million in costs to the Daily Telegraph, who he was attempting to stop publishing his name in connection with sexual harassment claims.

There has been a great deal of news coverage surrounding the attempts by Sir Philip Green (owner of chains such as British Home Stores and Top Shop) to stop newspapers publishing stories about him paying off alleged victims of sexual harassment.

Sir Philip had issued proceedings in the High Court seeking an injunction to prevent the Daily Telegraph from exposing him as the business man behind the alleged payments. However, Sir Philip’s name was disclosed in the house of commons by Lord Hain in October 2018. The fact that he had been named meant that the High Court proceedings seeking an injunction were now pointless in Sir Philip’s view, and so the court allowed him to discontinue the proceedings.

However, he was ordered to pay the vast majority of the legal costs incurred by the Daily Telegraph in dealing with his injunction proceedings up to that point. It is thought Sir Philip must pay around £3 million to the newspaper.

Whilst it would have been very difficult to predict that parliamentary privilege could have been used to get around Sir Philip’s injunction, the case does serve to remind litigants that discontinuing proceedings, particularly when significant costs have already been incurred, can have serious consequences.

The court takes the view that a party starting the court proceedings should be willing to settle, or see the proceedings through to the end, and that defendants to those proceedings should not be penalised if their opponent decides to pull out before the case has settled or come to trial.

Judith Thompson, partner at Samuels Solicitors LLP in North Devon says: “discontinuing proceedings is always a very serious step to take and anybody considering doing so should take legal advice about the potential costs consequences”.

In certain circumstances, it can be possible to stop court proceedings that you have started without suffering any or any severe costs consequences, but you would generally need your opponent's agreement. In a lot of cases this can be negotiated, if you have legal help at the right time. If you are considering discontinuing proceedings, you should take advice as quickly as possible, as the longer the case goes on, the higher the costs will be.

If you are considering discontinuing a claim, or if somebody has discontinued a claim that they issued against you, contact us for advice about how we can help you in relation to costs.