A judge has dismissed as ‘manifest nonsense’ a claimant’s attempt to apply sanctions to a defendant who filed the budget within an agreed time.
Claimant firm Carter-Ruck had tried to apply the Mitchell principle to Rattan v UBS AG, London Branch after the defendant firm, Stephenson Harwood, filed its costs budget on 28 February – six days before the costs management conference, rather than seven as stipulated in the rules.
But Stephenson Harwood produced a letter from Carter-Ruck suggesting they file the budgets ‘by 28 February’, which was agreed by the defendant.
Carter-Ruck then told the costs management conference the budget should be subject to CPR 3.14 as it was late and the defendant needed to apply for relief from sanctions.
Dov Ohrenstein, instructed by the claimant firm, said its interpretation of the rules was that ‘by 28 February’ would mean the budget be filed before that date rather than on it.
In a judgment published yesterday in the Queen’s Bench Division of the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Males described this argument as ‘manifest nonsense’.
He added: ‘It is clear that there was an agreement. Even if Mr Ohrenstein’s strained construction of the correspondence had been justified, the defendant’s solicitors’ understanding of the position was entirely reasonable.
‘If relief from sanctions had been necessary, which in my judgment it was not, the case for such relief would have been overwhelming.’
Justice Males (pictured) said he preferred to think the argument was a ‘misguided piece of opportunism’ rather than Stephenson Harwood’s suggestion the claimant had laid a ‘cunning trap’ for it to fall into.
‘However, the fact that such a suggestion could be made demonstrates that the claimant’s argument has not only increased the expense of this CMC but has also, in all probability, damaged the relationship of co-operation and trust which ought to exist between the parties’ legal representatives and which is necessary for the efficient conduct of litigation.’
Justice Males said he wanted to make a written judgment to ‘firmly discourage the taking of futile and time-wasting procedural points’.
He ordered that the claimant should pay the defendant’s costs of the argument, estimated at £4,500.