Bullock Order

Bullock Order
Bullock Order
Full Overview Of Bullock Order

Allocating costs is a critical aspect of litigation that can significantly impact the financial burden on the parties involved. The Bullock Order is a mechanism used in the United Kingdom to address cost allocation.

At DLS Solicitors, we recognise the importance of understanding the intricacies of legal orders to serve our clients better. This comprehensive overview delves into the nature, purpose, and implications of a Bullock Order and provides a detailed examination of its application in litigation.

What is a Bullock Order?

A Bullock Order is a type of cost order issued by the court in multi-party litigation, specifically in cases involving a plaintiff who sues multiple defendants. The order addresses situations where the plaintiff reasonably pursues a claim against more than one defendant but ultimately succeeds against only one.

A Bullock Order ensures that the unsuccessful defendant reimburses the plaintiff for the costs incurred in pursuing the unsuccessful claims against the other defendants.


Historical Context

The Bullock Order derives its name from the case of Bullock v. London General Omnibus Co. [1907], where the court established this principle to address the unfair burden of costs on a plaintiff who reasonably sues multiple defendants. The rationale is to protect a plaintiff from the financial consequences of naming multiple defendants when it is reasonable to ensure that the successful defendant bears the costs of the unsuccessful actions.

Main Elements of a Bullock Order

Reasonableness of Claim Against Multiple Defendants

For a Bullock Order to be issued, the court must be satisfied that the plaintiff reasonably pursued claims against multiple defendants. This reasonableness is judged based on the information available to the plaintiff at the time of initiating the proceedings.

Successful and Unsuccessful Defendants

The order applies where the plaintiff succeeds against one defendant but fails against others. The successful defendant is typically required to cover the plaintiff’s costs associated with the claims against the unsuccessful defendants.

Cost Allocation

The Bullock Order directs that the unsuccessful defendant indemnify the plaintiff for the costs incurred in litigating against the other defendants. This ensures that the financial burden does not unjustly fall on the plaintiff.

Judicial Discretion

The issuance of a Bullock Order is at the discretion of the court. The judge will consider the specifics of the case, including the conduct of the parties and the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s actions in naming multiple defendants.

Purpose of a Bullock Order

The primary purpose of a Bullock Order is to promote fairness in cost allocation. It ensures that a plaintiff who reasonably sues multiple defendants is not penalised with disproportionate costs if they succeed against only one. The order encourages plaintiffs to pursue legitimate claims without undue financial risk by shifting the cost burden to the unsuccessful defendant.

Practical Application of a Bullock Order

Initiating Proceedings

When a plaintiff initiates proceedings against multiple defendants, they may do so based on the belief that more than one party is liable. This belief must be grounded in reasonable evidence and due diligence.

Litigation Process

The plaintiff may gather evidence and arguments against each defendant during the litigation process. The court will evaluate whether the plaintiff’s actions, including multiple defendants, were justified.

Court’s Decision

If the court favours the plaintiff against one defendant and dismisses the claims against the others, it will consider issuing a Bullock Order. The judge will assess the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s actions and the defendant’s conduct.

Issuance of the Order

The court will specify the cost implications upon issuing a Bullock Order. The unsuccessful defendant will be ordered to cover the plaintiff’s costs in pursuing the unsuccessful claims against the other defendants.

Benefits of a Bullock Order

Promotes Fairness

The Bullock Order ensures that plaintiffs are not unfairly penalised for reasonably pursuing claims against multiple defendants, promoting a just cost allocation outcome.

Encourages Legitimate Claims

By protecting plaintiffs from excessive costs, the Bullock Order encourages the pursuit of legitimate claims, even when the exact liability of multiple defendants is uncertain at the outset.

Deters Unjustified Defences

The potential for a Bullock Order serves as a deterrent to defendants who might otherwise adopt unjustified defences, knowing they could be liable for additional costs if the court finds against them.

Challenges and Considerations

Judicial Discretion

Issuing a Bullock Order is subject to judicial discretion, which can lead to outcome variability. Different judges may have differing interpretations of what constitutes reasonable action by the plaintiff.

Assessment of Reasonableness

Determining the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s decision to sue multiple defendants can be complex. It involves evaluating the evidence and circumstances available to the plaintiff when initiating the lawsuit.

Potential for Increased Litigation

While the Bullock Order aims to protect plaintiffs, it might also encourage some plaintiffs to name multiple defendants more readily, potentially leading to increased litigation and associated costs.

Case Law and Judicial Interpretation

Over the years, several cases have shaped the understanding and application of Bullock Orders. Courts have provided guidance on the circumstances under which such orders are appropriate, emphasising the need for plaintiffs to act reasonably and in good faith when naming multiple defendants.

Bullock v. London General Omnibus Co. [1907]

This seminal case established the principle of the Bullock Order, highlighting the need to protect plaintiffs from unfair cost burdens when they reasonably sued multiple defendants.

Other Notable Cases

Subsequent cases have further refined the criteria for issuing Bullock Orders, addressing issues such as the parties’ conduct, the availability of evidence, and the overall fairness of the cost allocation.

Practical Tips for Plaintiffs and Defendants

For Plaintiffs:

  • Conduct Thorough Research: Ensure that the decision to name multiple defendants is based on thorough research and reasonable evidence.
  • Document Reasoning: Maintain clear documentation of the reasoning behind naming each defendant to demonstrate the reasonableness of the decision.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consult with legal professionals to assess the likelihood of a Bullock Order and understand the potential cost implications.

For Defendants:

  • Evaluate Liability Early: Assess the potential liability early in the litigation process and consider the merits of the plaintiff’s claims.
  • Avoid Unjustified Defences: Avoid adopting unjustified defences that could lead to adverse cost orders, including Bullock Orders.
  • Consider Settlement: Evaluate the possibility of settlement to mitigate the risk of incurring additional costs through a Bullock Order.


The Bullock Order is a crucial tool in multi-party litigation, designed to ensure fairness in the allocation of costs. At DLS Solicitors, we recognise the importance of understanding the nuances of such legal mechanisms to provide effective representation and advice to our clients. By promoting fairness and encouraging legitimate claims, the Bullock Order plays a vital role in the judicial system, balancing the interests of plaintiffs and defendants.

As with any legal instrument, applying a Bullock Order requires careful consideration of the specific circumstances of each case. Plaintiffs must act reasonably in naming multiple defendants, while defendants must be mindful of their conduct and the potential cost implications. Through diligent preparation, clear documentation, and strategic legal advice, parties can effectively navigate the complexities of multi-party litigation and the potential for Bullock Orders.

The Bullock Order is a testament to the judicial system’s commitment to fairness and justice. It ensures that plaintiffs are not unduly burdened by costs when they reasonably pursue claims against multiple defendants. At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to helping our clients understand and navigate these legal principles, providing the guidance and support needed to achieve favourable outcomes in litigation.

Bullock Order FAQ'S

A Bullock Order is a court order that allows a successful claimant to recover costs from the unsuccessful defendant for suing a second, unsuccessful defendant in cases where the identity of the liable party is uncertain at the start of the litigation.

Bullock Orders are typically used in multi-defendant cases where the claimant is unsure which defendant is liable and brings a claim against multiple defendants to determine responsibility.

A Bullock Order requires the unsuccessful defendant to reimburse the claimant for the costs incurred in suing an unsuccessful defendant, whereas a Sanderson Order requires the unsuccessful defendant to pay the costs of the successful defendant directly.

The court considers several factors, including whether the claimant acted reasonably in suing multiple defendants and whether it was reasonable to believe that the unsuccessful defendant might be liable.

No, the awarding of a Bullock Order is at the discretion of the court, which will evaluate the reasonableness of the claimant’s actions and the circumstances of the case.

The decision to grant a Bullock Order is made by the judge presiding over the case, based on the evidence and arguments presented.

A Bullock Order shifts the financial burden of the claimant’s costs of suing an unsuccessful defendant to the unsuccessful defendant, reducing the financial risk for the claimant.

Yes, a Bullock Order can be appealed if either party believes that the judge made an error in law or in their discretion when granting or refusing the order.

Yes, as mentioned, a Sanderson Order is an alternative. Additionally, parties can seek cost-sharing arrangements or settlements outside of court to manage legal costs.

Claimants should consider the reasonableness of their actions, the likelihood of each defendant’s liability, and the potential cost implications. Legal advice is essential to evaluate the merits of pursuing such an order.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 16th July 2024.

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