In the recent case of Solland and others v Clifford Harris (a firm)  EWHC 2018 (Ch) the High Court struck out a claim against a firm of solicitors due to the Claimant’s delay in progressing their claim.
The Civil Procedure Rules set out time limits for parties at each stage of the proceedings to ensure that cases are dealt with by the court and the parties efficiently and effectively. In this case, the Claimants incurred a 31 month delay in filing an allocation questionnaire. The court took the view that had the claim not been struck out the proceedings would have been left in “indefinite abeyance”.
The Claimants applied for from relief from sanctions and made an application for an extension of time, however the court noted that this was not a case where relief from sanctions was appropriate as the failure to file an allocation questionnaire did not have the same effect as if parties were to fail to file pleadings, for example. Documents such as pleadings prevent the case from progressing whereas the failure to file an allocation questionnaire would not have a significant effect on the claim from being pursued.
Nevertheless the court held that the Claimants had acted in “knowing and total disregard both of the rules and of the requirements of modern litigation” and their conduct amounted to an abuse of process. Striking out the claim was a proportionate sanction in the court’s exercise of its discretion under CPR 3.4(2)(c).
This is a reminder to parties of the court’s strict view of time limits in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules. Where parties have any doubts about the CPR requirements they should seek legal advice immediately to avoid facing sanctions which have the potential to significantly impact your ability to pursue or defend the claim, and could ultimately place you at risk of paying your opponent’s costs. Griffin Law are a niche litigation practice with experience in all aspects of litigation, and we are available to assist you if you have any queries about bringing or defending an action.