RULES EXIST TO ASSIST RESOLUTION OF ISSUES AND NOT TO THROW UP TECHNICAL OBSTACLES

In Williams -v- Devon County Council [2016] EWCA Civ 419 the Court of Appeal upheld a decision by a judge to allow substitution of a named individual in place of a group.

“These rules exist to enable the court to resolve the matters in issue, not to throw up unnecessary technical obstacles.”

THE CASE

A group known as “Sustainable Totnes Action Group” brought an action in the Administrative Court applying for an order to set aside a traffic regulation order.

THE STATUS OF THE CLAIMANT

  1. The Sustainable Totnes Action Group is a group of persons, not a single individual. Accordingly, the trial judge, His Honour Judge Cotter QC, ordered that one member of the group, Ms Sarah Jane Williams, be substituted as claimant. Ms Williams is and was an active member of the Sustainable Totnes Action Group. She lives in Totnes. She runs two shops on Fore Street. One is a fashion boutique called “FAB”. The other is a beauty and aromatherapy salon. The introduction of the ETO and the TRO has, on the evidence, been damaging to Ms Williams’ two businesses because of the reduced number of persons in Fore Street.”

THE ARGUMENT AT THE COURT OF APPEAL

The claimant was successful and the defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal. One of the grounds was whether the judge was correct to allow the substitution.

THE RULES DO NOT EXIST TO THROW UP UNNECESSARY TECHNICAL OBSTACLES

  1. Mr Whale has put his arguments today very clearly for the assistance of the court. The first issue is whether the judge fell into error in allowing the action to proceed in the name of Ms Williams, when initially it had been commenced by the Sustainable Totnes Action Group. Mr Whale submits that Sustainable Totnes Action Group is not a legal person. The action, therefore, never got off the ground properly and that must be an end to the proceedings.
  2. I do not accept that submission. It seems to me that Part 19 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) caters for the problem which has arisen in this case. Ms Williams is and always has been a member of the Sustainable Totnes Action Group. She ought to have been named as claimant at the outset. In my view, the judge properly exercised his powers under CPR Part 19 in substituting Ms Williams as claimant. These rules exist to enable the court to resolve the matters in issue, not to throw up unnecessary technical obstacles.

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