High Court denies claimants relief from sanctions after “serious and substantial default”

Chancery master: serious and significant breach

The High Court has rejected an application for relief from sanctions from claimants found to be in “serious and substantial” default by serving their particulars of claims three months late.

Edward Cousins, Deputy Chancery Master, said Alan Ward and Chelsea Bridge Apartments had provided “inadequate reason for the breaches” and described the merits of the claimants’ case, as, “at the highest scanty”.

In Chelsea Bridge Apartments and Alan Ward v Old Street Homes and Donnellan, Deputy Master Cousins said the breach met the first stage of the Denton test in that it was a “serious and significant failure”.

Moving to the second stage, he said their failure to appreciate the requirement to serve the particulars of claim “by a certain date, or at all, is not a good reason”.

He added: “I further find that it is not a good reason to assert that the claimants’ solicitors were under pressure at the time in the conduct of the case on behalf of their clients.

“In any event, as has been submitted on behalf of the defendants, there does not appear to have been any particularly onerous or unusual aspects to the case.”

As to the final stage of the test, Deputy Master Cousins found that the claimants were not conducting the litigation efficiently or at proportionate cost.

The judge said: “I agree with the submissions made on behalf of the defendants that it was the claimants who embarked upon this litigation and chose to do so with an ill-thought-out and precipitate application on a without-notice basis, attempting to seek a freezing order, which was then not granted.

“The poorly drafted claim form was issued and served pursuant to the claimants’ undertaking to the court to do so, and then the claimants immediately sought a stay. They then apparently refused to mediate.

“There has been substantial disruption in the progress of the action as a direct result of the claimants’ lack of action.”

He added that on the case as presented to date, the claimants could not be said to have a reasonably good prospect of success.



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