NO JUDGMENT IMMEDIATELY AFTER APPLICATION FOR RELIEF FROM SANCTIONS: MIAH V JALIL CONSIDERED

Mediatelegal

The case of Miaj –v- Jalil  (CA 6/3/2014) is reported briefly on Lawtel today. It involves the correct approach of the Court after granting relief from sanctions. More detailed commentary, will follow once the full transcript is available.

THE FACTS

Miah was a partnership dispute over, with the Claimant seeking damages for unpaid profits.

  • A hearing was listed for trial on the issue of liability, but judgment was later entered against the defendant when they failed to comply with an unless order.
  • The original hearing date was maintained so that the defendant’s application for relief from sanctions could be heard.
  • At the hearing the judge proposed that the relief from sanctions application should be heard first and that if he granted relief it would be open to him to proceed to consider the issue of liability.

THE HEARING

The judge subsequently granted the defendant relief and asked the parties to proceed with the issue of liability. The defendant asked for an adjournment and relied on the Claimant’s late delivery of an incomplete trial bundle. The judge refused to adjourn on the basis that the defendant had not been caused insuperable prejudice. As a result the defendant’s  counsel withdrew from the case.

THE ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT OF APPEAL

The defendant appealed and argued that the refusal to adjourn the case was unfair in the circumstances. The claimant responded by arguing that the refusal to adjourn was a case management decision which fell within the judge’s discretion.

THE COURT’S CONCLUSION

The Court allowed the defendant’s appeal :

(1) The defendant’s submissions were well founded. The claimant’s submissions failed to engage with the reasons why an adjournment was necessary and fair in the circumstances.

(2) The fundamental point, which the judge failed to give proper weight, was that the hearing had been listed to consider the defendant’s application for relief. It was true that if successful in their application the liability issue would recommence, but it was reasonable for the parties to expect that a trial on liability would be re-listed separately.

(3) It was clear that a separate trial on liability was the expectation of both parties and the judge at the beginning of the hearing. Going back on that expectation prejudiced the defendant who would have to argue points that they were not prepared for.

(4) This prejudice was exacerbated by the change in the claimant’s pleaded case, which was something which had not been included in their previously amended particulars

(5) The judge also failed to give proper weight to the fact that the defendant’s counsel only received an incomplete version of the trial bundle one day before the hearing.

DISCUSSION

I will review the case in detail once I have the full transcript.

  • It is interesting that there did not appear to be a cross-appeal against the granting of relief from sanctions.
  • The case also emphasises the need for a proper bundle to be served timeously.