SANCTIONS HEARING 5: UTILISE -v-DAVIES: MANY TRIVIAL BREACHES DO NOT LEAD TO RELIEF FROM SANCTIONS BEING REFUSED

The claimant served their costs budget 45 minutes late. Both the District Judge and Circuit Judge refused relief from sanctions. The Court of Appeal overturned this decision.

THE FACTS

The claimant’s cost budget was served at 4.45 and not 4.00.  An order was made that the claimant would be treated as having filed a budget containing only the applicable court fees.   There was a prompt application for relief from sanctions. This was refused by teh District Judge. On appeal the Circuit Judge held that although this was only a trivial breach the court could have regard to other breaches and the cumulative effect was that the 45 minute delay was not trivial.

THE APPEAL: THE DISTRICT JUDGE AND CIRCUIT JUDGE WERE WRONG

The Court of Appeal held that the judges below were wrong.

  • At the first stage the judge should have found that the 45 minute breach was trivial.
  • The breach did not imperil any hearing date of otherwise disrupt the conduct of this or any other litigation.
  • Given that finding the judge should not have spent too much time on stages 2 or 3.
  • There was, however, no good reason for filing the costs budget late. However as regards the third stage neither (a) or (b) pointed towards a refusal for the simple reason that the breach did not prevent the litigation from being conducted efficiently and at proportionate costs and did not imperil any future hearing date or disrupt the conduct of this or other litigation.
  • The judge should have considered the fact that relief was applied for as soon as the position was realised. The breach only became apparent upon a close examination of the fax heading.
  • At the third stage the court should have had regard to the effect of the additional breach (in this case a failure to notify the court timeously of the outcome of negotiations). However the judges below were wrong to think that a breach of an earlier order (which was neither serious or significant) should turn a trivial error into something worse.
  • The defendant should have consented to relief from sanctions.

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