Lord Justice Jackson, architect of the civil justice reforms, has overturned a High Court decision which wrongly interpreted his own changes to the system.
Jackson, sitting in the Court of Appeal, said His Honour Judge Richardson had ‘erred’ in reversing the decision of a costs judge to grant an extension of time.
The claimants’ solicitors had asked for a 21-day extension of time to serve their points of dispute in Hallam Estates Ltd & Anor v Baker.
The defendant’s solicitors did not agree to the request, but costs judge Master Gordon-Saker subsequently granted the extension and gave both parties liberty to apply to set aside or vary the order.
Jackson noted this was an ‘extremely sensible and cost-efficient’ course to take, but the defendant won an appeal in the High Court after Richardson said there was non-disclosure of facts by the claimants.
In a judgment published today, Jackson said the costs judge had dealt with a ‘straightforward’ application to extend time and that the principles of relief from sanctions, set by the Court of Appeal’s landmark Mitchell judgment, were not applicable in this case.
Jackson said he would allow the claimants’ appeal against Richardson’s decision.
‘The claimants made a reasonable application for an extension of time, which did not imperil any future hearing dates or otherwise disrupt the proceedings,’ said Jackson.
Jackson said it was ‘no part of my recommendations’ that parties should refrain from agreeing reasonable extensions of time.
Nor was it ‘any part’ of his recommendations that the court should refuse to grant reasonable extensions of time in those circumstances.
Jackson added: ‘The costs judge was not dealing with relief from sanctions. He was making a case management decision about extension of time.
‘The judge ought not to have interfered with the costs judge’s exercise of discretion.’