Solicitors who blamed IT issues for filing a costs budget 10 days late have been granted relief from sanctions in the High Court.
His Honour Judge Grant said Leeds firm Plexus Law had not affected the course of the litigation through its non-compliance and he allowed the firm to rely on the budget.
Parties in Mott & Anor v Long & Anor had been given until 21 days before this month’s hearing to file budgets, but nothing was received from the defendant’s solicitors by the agreed deadline.
In her witness statement Sarah Wright, an associate partner at Plexus, explained the document had been drafted on 6 July and was due to be served on time.
However, at this time the firm experienced computer difficulties arising during the implementation of new printing systems. The problems, Wright explained, included saving and printing Word documents, and the system crashing during the course of working on them.
When the issue was flagged up by claimant solicitors, Wright reviewed the document and noted the final version was not saved to the computer system.
Lawyers arguing for sanctions said authorities have showed that a failure to serve a costs budget can have a material effect on the litigation if such failure 'sufficiently distracts from the cooperative process of entering into discussions’ about costs. They cited the Lakhani case, in which solicitors were penalised for filing a day late.
Grant said the period of delay in his case was significant and that it was questionable whether the delay was caused by human error or a fault in the IT system. He also asked why there was no witness statement from an IT worker at the firm.
Nevertheless, the judge said the process of cost budgeting would not have been completed in any event by the date of case management conference, and in that context the delay had made no material effect.
Grant added: 'The fact that the parties are now in precisely the same procedural position in which they would have been so far as the process of cost budgeting is concerned, had the defendants served their cost budget in time, is a highly significant circumstance in the case, and one to which the court should have proper regard.'
The judge did, however, order that the defendant pay the costs of the application.