Appealing case management – Hague Plant Ltd v Hague

A timely reminder of the scope of appeal on a case management issue (as if we haven’t all spent the last 18 months or so reading relief appeals).

The Court of Appeal in this case ([2014] EWCA Civ 1609) is somewhat critical of the scale of the appeal and points out the scope of its powers upon appeal and that firstly, these are merely to address whether the correct principles were applied and neither relevant factors ignored or irrelevant factors. (and refers to Eagil Trust Co Limited v Pigott-Brown [1985] 3 All ER 119 for three decade old EWCA authority on the issue).

The appeal is in relation to amendment of pleadings and although Briggs LJ intends to take only a brief overview there is still a history reminiscent of Jarndyce v Jarndyce.

in respect of amendment of statements of case discusses the issue of lateness as discussed in Swain-Mason v Mills & Reeve [2011] EWCA Civ 14 and Savings & Investment Bank Limited v Fincken [2003] EWCA Civ 1630 and places this flexible issue within the hands of the judge dealing with case management to balance considering that unclear but early and amendments may be impermissible but a short, focussed and explained amendment later in proceedings may be permissible.

However, rather than iteratively addressing the extensive grounds of appeal the court upheld the court below’s refusal to re-amend particulars on proportionality grounds and took a pragmatic approach to the proposed significant re-amendments sought  (p.41).

There were specific issues addressed of which the second – reintroduction of an abandoned point – is useful authority commenting as it does that the White Book’s view that Rule 38.7 (court’s permission required to bring proceedings previously abandoned) requires exceptional circumstances is too high a test – rather the court should balance the explanation proffered against the public interest in finality of litigation. Sufficient explanation is all that is required to overcome that natural disinclination, therefore a much lower standard.

This one potential error of law, well misdirection, did not lead to an incorrect result.

Once again the Court of Appeal upholds robust case management and the proper application of proportionality. A good reminder to all litigators but I would strongly commend reading of the decision to all advocates as the commentary on pleadings is too extensive to discuss briefly.