The "Wagatha Christie" saga first hit the headlines in October 2019 when Colleen Rooney, wife of footballer Wayne Rooney, accused Rebekah Vardy of selling fake stories about her family to the media.
Vardy, married to Leicester City footballer Jamie Vardy, strongly denied leaking the stories and commenced libel proceedings against her former friend in June 2020.
The case came before Master Eastman on 16 March 2021 for a case management hearing.
Rooney's barrister, John Samson of Hatton Chambers, asked that the court reject Vardy's costs budget and even suggested that it was 'grotesque' given that it was double that of the Defendant.
Sara Mansoori of Matrix Chambers representing Vardy, informed the court that the Claimant's budget was £897,000, with the estimated costs being £465,842, comparing this with Rooney's budget at £402,312 in respect of estimated costs. She suggested that the sums sought 'reflect the complexity, scope and scale of the legal and factual issues'.
It is pertinent to note that the sums sought within the budget were in fact exclusive of VAT, meaning that Vardy's costs overall would exceed £1 million.
Master Eastman declined to undertake the costs budgeting exercise as both parties' budgets were 'extraordinarily large' and has given the parties until June to file revised costs budgets. He advised that "it is in everyone's interests, not least financial, for the parties to settle this case if they possibly can". A further hearing has been listed in July with the full libel trial set for Autumn 2021.
This case demonstrates the need for solicitors to budget correctly and to avoid 'throwing in everything but the kitchen sink'.
The fact that Master Eastman has ordered the parties to re-draft their budgets and has listed another hearing to address costs management, illustrates the importance of the costs budgeting exercise.
Whilst the fees for preparation of the costs budget and the costs budgeting process are capped, the cost of having to re-draft the budget and attend a further costs management hearing will no doubt be significant.
Get it right the first the time and everyone is happy!
For further information, please contact Rebecca Heyes.