A firm which filed its costs budget seven days late due to a change in fee-earner has been granted relief from sanctions on appeal.
Sitting in Liverpool County Court, His Honour Judge Peter Gregory (pictured) said the district judge was wrong to have punished the breach of Civil Procedure Rules by refusing relief.
In Murray v BAE Systems PLC, the claimant filed Form H with the court after hours on 24 August 2015, having been given a deadline of 19 August.
Thompsons, representing the claimant in a personal injury case, told the court the failure to file and serve the costs budget was due to a lack of communication between the fee-earner on the case and her predecessor about who was responsible.
A further reason advanced was the absence of an automatic diary entry system at the firm’s office to cater for orders.
District judge Harrison said last August she accepted the explanation for the delay and that it arose from a genuine mistake rather than deliberate disregard for court rules.
But she considered the total period of delay to be serious and significant, despite the breach having been an isolated one.
The appeal against refusal to grant relief drew upon many of the landmark cases involving costs budgeting in recent years, including Mitchell, Denton and Long. Defendant firm DAC Beachcroft, arguing against relief from sanctions, said the margin of delay set this case apart from other cases where the courts had taken a more lenient approach.
But claimant barrister Gordon Exall said the district judge had failed to properly address the materiality and significance of the breach.
In this case, despite the seven-day delay, there was no ‘knock-on’ effect to the court timetable, as had been the case in Mitchell.
HHJ Gregory found ‘considerable force’ in the claimant’s argument that the district judge erred in her approach in rejecting the consideration of consequences of the breach.
‘If the breach in this case is properly classified as ‘serious and significant’, then in my judgement it must fall towards the bottom of any applicable scale or range,’ he said.
He allowed the claimant’s appeal and allowed the claimant the costs of and incidental to the appeal.