Cheung Hing v Wah Fung Forest Resources Ltd
Court of First Instance
Miscellaneous Proceedings No. 2433 of 2012
Godfrey Lam J in Chambers
7 December 2016

Costs – gross sum assessment – reasons for assessment – although no general duty to give reasons for costs orders, court could in appropriate case explain assessment by giving breakdown – did not involve court acting when functus officio

The Judge ordered the intervener (“X”) to pay 80 percent of P’s costs to be assessed on a gross sum basis and subsequently, on paper, assessed the costs payable (the “Sum”), which included costs ordered to be in the cause but not costs previously reserved or separately ordered in favour of a specific party. X applied for leave to appeal against the assessment of costs on the ground that no reasons were given. Order 42 r. 5B(1) of the The Rules of the High Court (Cap. 4A) provides that “A Court shall give the reasons for any decision either at the time the judgment or order is pronounced or, where it is at that time announced that the reasons will be given at a later date, at such later date as may be fixed.”

Held, giving a breakdown of the Sum, that:

  • The court had no general duty to give reasons in relation to costs orders. However here, since the Sum covered a number of steps and was constituted by various components, it was not unreasonable for X to seek at least a breakdown of the amount. There was no law or rule of practice which precluded the Court from indicating how the global sum was calculated. Order 42 r. 5B(1) did not appear to deal with a procedure such as a summary assessment of costs on paper nor expressly prevent the court from giving reasons later where it had not done so when giving judgment and had not stated it would do so at a subsequent date.
  • In an appropriate case, the Court of First Instance had an inherent jurisdiction to provide additional reasons for its judgment, although this was not a course to be frequently adopted.
  • The Court was not proposing to revisit the judgment or order, which had been drawn up and sealed, by amending, varying or supplementing it, but to make manifest the breakdown of the Sum. This did not involve the Court acting when functus officio.
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