James is a Partner and Head of the Dispute Resolution team and primarily handles commercial…View Profile View all
A Claimant who won his trial on liability has had his quantum claim struck out ten years after the original trial! The Judge dealing with the case decided it was completely unacceptable to proceed with quantifying the claim ten years after the Claimant had won the trial on liability, particularly where the Claimant had failed to comply with two Court Orders relating to setting up the quantum trial. The Judge said that delay alone was not an abuse of process; there had to be something else such as significant prejudice being caused to the other side. The Judge was of the opinion that the Defendant had suffered prejudice and that a fair trial was no longer possible as the Defendant had lost the ability to obtain evidence from third parties.
The Judge commented upon the resources available to the court service now compared with previous years. He said, “The fact is however that they did have sufficient resources to be able to cope with litigants who delayed and dilly-dallied, litigants that did not comply with Orders and then had to have further Orders made against them. There was a margin of tolerance, because there was a certain slack in the system. All that has now gone. There are now fewer resources available. We no longer have the luxury of being able to schedule repeat performance of hearings because the parties are not ready. This is a much harder game to play. There is greater emphasis therefore – in my judgment rightly – on following the Rules and Orders to prevent the litigation system, being overwhelmed.”
The Judge felt that there was no proper explanation for the ten year delay and the breaches by the Claimant were serious. In coming to his decision, the Judge rejected an argument put forward by the Claimant that the delay was a fault of his former solicitors. The Judge said that was not a good explanation, particularly as the Claimant was an experienced businessman. He also did not accept the Claimant’s argument that the Defendant could have done more to press the case forward. He said it was the Claimant’s duty to advance the case.
Of interest arising from the case was the Judge’s comment upon the litigation regime and the lack of resources now available to the court service.
Please contact James Staton, Partner, Litigation, for further details.