In Cranford Community College -v- Cranford College Ltd (16/06/2014 IPEC Judge Hacon) the court granted relief from sanctions following late service of a witness statement. (The case was reported on Lawtel on the 18th June 2014).
The action was a passing off action.
- The date for exchange of witness statement was varied by agreement.
- The claimant served on time, the defendant served three witness statements 13 days late.
- The reasons were that one of the witnesses had a wife who was seriously ill; another had a professional engagement abroad; there was no explanation for late service of the statement of the third witness.
- The defendant applied for relief from sanctions and permission to rely upon all three witness statements which had been served late.
Relief was granted in relation to only one of the witnesses. The witness whose wife was ill had an exceptional reason. His wife’s condition had become the main priority in his life and the demands of the litigation less important. However relief was refused in relation to the other two witnesses.
- Since Mitchell the question of whether the claimant was prejudiced by the failure was less important.
- Only one witness had an exceptional reason for his statement not to be served on time.
- The reason given by the witness who went abroad was unsatisfactory. The explanation was brief and the court had insufficient information.
- A delay of 13 days, particularly when the trial date was not far off, was not trivial.
- The third witness had provided no explanation for the failure to serve in time.
- The culture of maintaining deadlines was to be maintained as much as possible.