Hugh Grant features in Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules

Written by Samuel O’Toole | April 29, 2024

Data Protection

Unfortunately, this is not a film review, nor is it a review of Hugh Grant’s performance in The Regime; it is, however, a review of Grant’s command of High Court litigation involving allegations of phone hacking, clever tactics and an “enormous” settlement.

The starting point is Grant’s misuse of private information claim against News Group Newspapers Limited (“NGN”) issued in the High Court in 2022. Grant’s Claim Form sought “damages (including aggravated damages) for misuse of private information by journalists or other third parties acting or working for and on behalf of The Sun newspaper…”  in the Mobile Telephone Voicemail Interception Litigation.

Grant was one of many claimants in the Mobile Telephone Voicemail Interception Litigation. This litigation began in 2011, involves a number of high-profile claimants (a number of who have settled claims with NGN) and are heading towards trial in January 2025.

Grant recently settled his claim against NGN, he explained on X (formally Twitter) that he had accepted a Part 36 Offer and that “… the rules around civil litigation mean that if I proceed to trial and the court awards me damages that are even a penny less than the settlement offer, I would have to pay the legal costs of both sides.”

The rules in relation to Part 36 Offers are, helpfully, found in Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”). These are Court rules designed to ensure that litigants are on equal footing, cases are dealt with swiftly and a cost-efficient manner.

Part 36 is a tool found in the CPR that hopes to focus the minds of litigants on the resolution of a dispute. The way it does this is by providing both incentives and ramifications for the refusal to accept a Part 36 offer.

Broadly speaking, a Part 36 offer is an offer made by either a claimant or a defendant in Court proceedings that (as long as it complies with the Part 36 rules) has cost consequences.

Those cost consequences can mean that if the recipient of the offer (here Grant) does not obtain a judgment that is more advantageous (e.g. the court offers a lower amount than the offer), the court has the power to award NGN its costs of the proceedings (this is contrary to the usual “looser pays the winner” position) and penalty interest.

The problem, therefore, we imagine Grant found himself in was that given NGN made an “enormous” Part 36 offer, it was unlikely Grant would do better than this offer at trial. As Grant said, even if the Court awarded him a penny less than the offer amount he could be on the hook for NGN’s legal costs. These costs would likely wipe out any Court award and would be so significant that Grant would be substantially out of pocket.

This is the way in which Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules forces parties to litigation to make considered and realistic settlement offers as otherwise, although they may be successful in the claim, they may have to foot the other side’s legal costs.

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