Award of “Cost of Action” And Conservative Nature of Courts

Judges' Gavel

A litigant who goes to court to seek redress expends a lot of resources, human and capital. Depending on the nature of the case, the status of the lawyer/law firm retained to prosecute the case and the time it takes for a final determination of the suit, a litigant spends within the range of N3,000,000 – N5,000,000 at the Lower Court. If the suits goes on appeal to the Court of Appeal (and to the Supreme Court), the litigant spends about twice the amount he spent at the lower court.

Whenever a Trial Judge delivers his judgment on a case, he usually awards cost of the suit to the successful party. The award is done either by the court suo moto or at the instance of the successful party. The area I find intriguing is the yardstick with which the Judges measure the quantum of award necessary for the successful party. My understanding is that such cost is intended to compensate the successful party for the resources, human and capital (especially capital), expended in the prosecution of the suit.

I am yet to come across a case where the judge awards cost commensurate with the capital the successful party had expended on the suit. In very rare cases, a Judge would award a six digit figure (N100,000 and likes) as the cost of the suit. The usual costs awarded by courts are in five digits (N50,000 and likes).

How do Judges arrive at these assessments which are far cry from the actual cost spent on prosecuting cases? Should the judge call for evidence of payment of filing and professional fee before awarding cost of litigation?  Should those monies be termed something else rather than “cost of prosecuting the suit”?

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