The High Court has laid down another marker to litigants in person to urge that they cannot expect the law to bend to suit their circumstances. In Reynard v Fox, litigant in person Christopher Reynard had argued that his failure to correctly bring forward a claim was because he ‘didn’t have a detailed knowledge’ of regulations.
Former ski tour operator Reynard sought damages over the handling of his bankruptcy proceedings but was required to apply for leave of the court to bring his claim under section 304 of the Insolvency Act 1986, which concerns the liability of a trustee. The claimant claimed damages for breach of contract and negligence in relation to the conduct of Nigel Fox, an insolvency practitioner appointed trustee to handle Reynard’s bankruptcy in 2013.
After an already-protracted legal process. Reynard sought permission to bring his claim under s304 as part of a supplementary skeleton argument filed in January, but His Honour Judge Paul Matthews struck out the claim, saying this late attempt to comply with regulations was not enough, and insisting he could be offered no indulgence.
Referencing the Barton ruling in the Supreme Court, which denied special treatment to a litigant in person, the judge in Reynard insisted the claimant was an ‘intelligent and articulate litigant’, who had learned much about insolvency law and civil procedure regulations. ‘I see no injustice arising here merely from the fact that the claimant is a litigant in person,’ said HHJ Paul Matthews.
Even if being unrepresented were an excuse, he explained, the court was bound to decide if a claim is either unsustainable or unfair. ‘You cannot successfully claim that an apple is an orange, on the grounds that you do not know the difference because you are a litigant in person. Defendants also have rights, including the right not to be made liable for causes of action which do not lie against them.’
Reynard had made two applications: one to set aside an order to transfer the claim from the County Court Money Claims Centre to the County Court at Bristol, and also for an order to return the matter to the CCMCC.
HHJ Paul Matthews said the matter involved a ‘wealth of history and other litigation activity’ involving several failed applications by Reynard and which led to the present dispute.
Particulars for the claim were filed and served last August, but Fox’s solicitors Clyde & Co applied for it to be struck out, arguing it was issued in breach of a court order from November 2016 and was an abuse of the court’s process.
Matthews rejected the option of striking out for breach of a court order, but did strike out the claim because it failed to comply with civil procedure regulations. He added this was a ‘classic case’ where the litigation between the parties needed to be determined ‘once and for all’.