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The courts: comply or else

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Ignorance of court rules is no excuse for non compliance, and can be costly.

Decisions of the courts penalising those who fail to comply on time with procedural requirements, whatever the merits of the substantive dispute, continue unabated.  The trend was highlighted and publicised by the decision of the Court of Appeal in the 2013 libel case brought by the politician Andrew Mitchell MP against News Group where he faced the prospect of not recovering the substantial legal costs, whatever the outcome of the trial, because of a failure to comply with procedure.

The trend continued in November 2016 in a case, Eaglesham v Ministry of Defence where Mr Eaglesham brought a claim for damages against the Ministry of Defence by reason of the latter’s alleged failure properly to treat him in connection with an illness contracted whilst he was on active service in Afghanistan.  The value of the claim was at least £6 million.  The Ministry of Defence denied liability and sought to defend the claim. However, their failure to comply with an express order directing disclosure of specific documents by a given date led to the claimant obtaining judgment without having to prove anything at all.
The importance of complying with rules of court and procedural order cannot be over emphasised. There is little to indicate that any indulgence will be shown to anyone trying to represent themselves (a litigant in person) complaining that they did not understand their obligations because they are not lawyers.  The financial implications for a litigant in default can clearly be significant.
If you need legal advice about court rules or litigation please contact Tony Irving on 01923 650850 to discuss how Hancock Quins can help you.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.