Relief from sanction – Have I a chance?

On 01 April 2016 His Honour Judge Peter Gregory, in the case of Murray v BAE Systems PLC allowed an appeal against a decision which dismissed the Claimant’s application for relief from sanction for failure to file a costs budget on time.

During the course of the main action the Court had ordered the parties to file costs budgets in accordance with CPR 3.13. The Defendant complied, however, due to miscommunication between fee earners, the Claimant filed their costs budget 7 days late. On the same day as filing their costs budget, the Claimant made an application for relief from sanction.

District Judge Harrison dismissed the Claimant’s application for relief from sanction and limited the Claimant’s costs budget to Court fees as per CPR 3.14. In reaching this decision, the Judge ruled that the total period of delay was serious and significant. She accepted the reasoning was a genuine mistake and not a deliberate disregard for Court rules, and she also took into consideration “all of the circumstances” surrounding the case, however, relief was not granted.

The Claimant appealed and His Honour Judge Peter Gregory accepted the Claimant’s submission that District Judge Harrison had erred in her decision. The appeal Judge acknowledged that District Judge Harrison had made her decision “with limited time to consider whatever authorities she may have been referred to”, but found that the Claimant’s breach could not be categorised as “serious and significant” and granted relief from sanction.

At paragraph 43 the Judge found that various factors pointed in favour of relief being granted, including: “that the litigation could be conducted efficiently, at proportionate cost, and without being adversely affected by the Claimant’s failure to serve a costs budget on time; that the application for relief had been made promptly; that there had been no previous breach in the proceedings; that the District Judge could have proceeded to assess the costs budget in any event; and that the Claimant’s solicitor’s mistake was an isolated one and due to a genuine breakdown of communication.

Whilst recognising that this is a case specific Judgment, the above factors were all taken into consideration by the Judge when granting relief from sanction.
If you find yourself in breach of Court rules and having to file an application for relief, they are certainly worth bearing in mind as potential persuasive arguments in attempting to obtain relief.

A full copy of the judgment can be found here.

Gordon Exall, Counsel for the Claimant, gives a detailed analysis of the judgment in his article, which can be accessed here.

If you have any questions or queries in relation this blog please contact Joanne Chase (joanne.chase@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3327) or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 2460622.

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