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Davis Solicitors LLP v Raja & Another [2015] EWHC 519 (QB)

Articles | Thu 5th Mar, 2015

This was an appeal in the High Court against a Circuit Judge’s refusal to grant relief from sanctions. William Dean represented the Respondents at the appeal hearing. The appeal was dismissed.

Mr Raja and Ms Riaz (“the Respondents”) were clients of Davis Solicitors L.L.P. (“the Appellant”), a firm of solicitors based in Ilford. At first instance, the Respondents successfully defended a claim for unpaid fees, with the Deputy District Judge allowing their counterclaim on the basis of the Appellant’s negligence.

The Appellant appealed. The firm failed to file an appeal bundle in accordance with PD52B para. 6.3. H.H.J. Wulwik made an order that unless the Appellant filed an appeal bundle by 17th March 2014 then the appeal would be struck out. The Appellant failed to comply. On 31st March 2014, H.H.J. Wulwik made an order striking out the appeal.

The Appellant made an application for relief from sanctions. It was accepted by all parties that it did so promptly. The application was heard by H.H.J. Mitchell on 1st August 2014. By that date, the Appellant had still not filed an appeal bundle. The Appellant argued that it was unnecessary because all of the documents relevant to the appeal had been filed and served. H.H.J. Mitchell commented that the purpose of an appeal bundle was “to enable the court to pick up the case without having to rummage through the file and find individual documents” ([21]). The judge refused the application, commenting that had the Appellant filed an appeal bundle it would have been likely that he would have granted relief.

The Appellant appealed H.H.J. Mitchell’s decision to the High Court. The appeal was heard by Supperstone J. on 19th February 2015. The Appellant argued that relief ought to have been granted pursuant to the guidance set out in Denton v. TH White Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 906, on the basis that the breach was not significant, the Respondents had prompted the strike out order (by writing to the judge to point out the default) and that H.H.J. Mitchell had erred in considering the merits of the appeal.

The Respondents argued that the breach was significant because, inter alia, the Appellant had decided not to comply with the order. Their letter to the judge was immaterial because the terms of the unless order were such that the Appellant’s failure to file an appeal bundle caused the appeal to be struck out without further order.

Supperstone J. held that the breach was serious and significant: “[t]he fact is that Ms Ballard had deliberately decided not to comply with the Practice Direction” ([35]). He concluded that there was no good reason for it and that the Appellant’s conduct indicated “a continuing lack of understanding of the importance of the rules”. In all the circumstances of the case he dismissed the appeal.

The neutral citation for the judgment is [2015] EWHC 519 (QB) and an electronic copy is available here.

The matter was reported in The Law Society Gazette on 6th March 2015: “Solicitor Loses £21k Negligence Strike-out Appeal“.

William Dean was instructed for the appeal hearing by Salmaan Islam of North Ford Solicitors.

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