An architect and engineering firm’s application to claim a dispute was invalid because the wrong court fees had been paid and the limitation period had expired has ‘no prospect of success’, the High Court has ruled.
Throwing out the case, Mr Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith (pictured) rejected the claims as misconceived and having ‘no real prospect of success’.
The case, Dixon v Radley House Partnership and Mr Christopher Reading and Others, dates back to 2007 when claimants James and Jenni Dixon employed architecture firm Radley House Partnership and electrical engineering company Chris Reading & Associates to refurbish their house in Hampshire.
However, the works did not run smoothly and the Dixons claimed the refurbishment was inadequate.
CRA’s appointment ended in June 2009 and RHP’s appointment ended in April 2010.
The Dixons then filed a claim against the companies, against RHP in 2013 and CRA in 2014, alleging defects in the works, which they said caused them losses, including the cost of repairs.
But, in April 2016, RHP and CRA then applied to amend their defences on the basis that the claimants had failed to pay the appropriate court fees when issuing the proceedings and that the limitation period on the claim had expired.
RHP and CRA claimed that, under the Limitation Act 1980, an action for fraud or tort cannot be brought after six years from the date of the alleged wrongdoing.
The defendants argued that the proceedings had not been ‘brought’ for the purposes of the act and should be declared invalid.
They further claimed that the Dixons' Particulars of Claim, served after the original claim form, exceeded the £35,000 that was originally claimed in the first claim forms in 2013/14.
According to the court, the appropriate fee for a claim for a sum of money that exceeds £15,000 but does not exceed £50,000 is £395.
The defendants claimed that the Dixons should have paid £1,670, the fee for claims in excess of £50,000 instead of £395.
But Stuart-Smith’s judgment, handed down on Monday, said that ‘at all material times, the relevant orders have provided for different fees to be paid on issuing different types of claim’.
He added that, if the defendants were right, any and every claimant who has issued proceedings without paying the fee that may retrospectively be seen to be appropriate, has failed to stop time running under the Limitation Act.
The defendants also sought to rely on an earlier case Lewis v Ward Hadaway, in which solicitors deliberately underpaid court fees in abuse of process. But, as the defendants did not allege abuse of process the case was not applicable.