No mercy for missed deadlines

In the fairly-recent case of Lakhani and anor v Mahmud [2017] EWHC 1713 (available via BAILII here), the freeholders of land in a London suburb had brought an action seeking an injunction. They wanted the defendants to restore car parking spaces to a condition in which they were available to the claimants.

As part of case management, D J Jackson made an order requiring the parties to file and serve updated costs budgets 21 days before the CCMC. The claimants served their costs budget on time. The defendants served theirs one day later – and, unfortunately, one day too late. Nonetheless, the parties’ solicitors carried on with the process of commenting on one another’s proposals.

At the CCMC, the court heard the defendants’ application for relief from sanctions. It did not succeed, and they appealed this decision.

In the High Court, Daniel Alexander QC noted that

[t]he application for relief from sanctions was not advanced in a manner calculated to optimise the chances of success . . . it was made at the last minute before the hearing . . . the circumstances in which the application was made and the late service of evidence precluded the claimants form serving evidence in response . . . [t]hird, the 45 minute hearing . . . was turned into a 1/2 day hearing, dominated by the issue of relief from sanctions. Fourth, the late service . . . and the consequential dispute . . . had potential to disrupt agreement over costs budgets.

The appellate decision then goes on to deal with the first instance decision in some detail. It is potentially helpful for anyone faced with a relief-from-sanctions application (although there is, of course, higher authority). The High Court in Lahkhani upheld the first instance decision; it was a decision “open to [the judge] in the exercise of his discretion and is of a kind which the Court of Appeal has recommended should normally be upheld”, although it was (para 59)

“perhaps, on the tougher end of the spectrum as to substance and the leaner end of the spectrum as to analysis. But the defendants have not been deprived of a trial altogether. Had that been the consequence, the situation would have merited more detailed scrutiny than the judge gave it . . .”

 

Nothing new here, some might say, but is a salutory reminder of the strict approach which the Court will often take, and of the uphill struggle with which any appeal against a case management decision will be faced.

 

 

Author: Ezra Macdonald

I'm a barrister practising from Pump Court Chambers in London (although we have annexes in Wiltshire and Hampshire and I work throughout England & Wales). I mainly do a combination of employment, commercial, and property law (both residential and commercial). I also do some personal injury work, which these days consists mostly of fast track trials. I have a strong-to-moderate academic interest in the law, and I'm always happy to be contacted for discussion or advice.

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