RESILING FROM ADMISSIONS – ISN’T THAT EASY : WITH A HOMAGE TO THE WIT AND WISDOM OF RALPH GUIDE DOG (RETIRED)
I got nudged into writing this post on withdrawing from admissions by Ralph Guide Dog, (Retired). So, especially for Ralph – who has always taken a keen interest in all things legal, the latest High Court decision on resiling from admissions.
BLIND DOG RALPH (RETIRED)
Ralph is one of a number of assistance dogs who have their own Twitter account (which shows how thorough their training must be). Over the years he has portrayed the foibles of “the human” he looks after, together with the commute from Skipton to Leeds, and home to Wetherspoons. Recently Ralph was ill and needed an operation. His many fans waited with bated breath for news. Ralph survived, but he had to retire.
I have today retired from the profession having been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma (an aggressive tumour in my heart). On the plus side, no more Wetherspoons for me!
RALPH’S CARE FREE RETIREMENT
Whilst I lie here in bed The Human will be beating fellow commuters with his white stick – not all bad this retirement!
RALPH’S NEED TO RESILE FROM ADMISSIONS
Managed a walk out to my park earlier. So nice not to have the stress of trying to get The Human run over… Sorry, I mean trying not to get him run over
Quite an admission in that last one – now searching
@CivilLitTweet ‘s blog for info on how to resile …
THE LATEST CASE ON OBTAINING PERMISSION TO RESILE FROM AN ADMISSION
The claimant was injured when she fell down the stairs at work. The defendant admitted liability. The defendant attempted to draw back from that admission prior to issue.
Proceedings were issued and the claimant relied on the admission.
THE DEFENDANT’S PLEADING
The defendant filed a defence.
“The defendant shall, pursuant to Civil Procedure Rules Part 14.1, and Practice
Direction 14, paras.7.1 and 7.2, make an application to seek permission to withdraw
the said admission on the grounds that the staircase was safe to navigate and as a
result it has a complete defence as to liability. The application is also justified on the
ground that there has been material change in circumstances brought about by the
significant inflation of the quantum the claimant now seeks in comparison with that
originally indicated at the time of the admission.”
THE HEARING BEFORE MASTER DAVISON
The judge reviewed the decision making process that the Master had gone through.
It must be recalled when considering the Master’s decision that he was not engaged in a trial
of the proceedings. He was engaged in a piece of case management, case management by
reference to the relevant Practice Direction at 7.2. He was obliged, as indeed he did, to
consider all of the circumstances of the case with particular reference to the matters set out
in the practice direction.
13 First, the Master had to consider the grounds on which the admission was sought to be
withdrawn, including whether or not new evidence had come to light, which was not
available at the time the admission was made. In this case, before the Master the principal
thrust of the submissions was that new evidence had come to light in respect of the quantum
of the claim. This evidence changed the nature of the claim from one which, on pragmatic
and economic terms, justified a concession, to one which was very far removed from such a
claim. The Master was unimpressed by that argument. He was right to be unimpressed, and
it is not pursued today. The correspondence which I have already outlined makes it crystal
clear to anyone in the position of the claims handler who was considering the case that this
was a claim which was anything but straightforward. It was a claim which going to involve
the instruction of three medical specialists. There was nothing to justify the claims handler
concluding that it was a claim of a modest amount.
14 Second, the Master had to consider the conduct of the parties, including any conduct which
led the party making the admission to do so. Before the Master it was suggested albeit
tentatively that the claimant’s solicitors had contributed to the admission by the way in
which they had failed to give a proper indication of the scale of the claim. That is no longer
pursued, and rightly so. The claimant’s solicitors had done nothing at all to give any
impression whatsoever that this claim was of modest size. Indeed, they had expressly
abjured any reference to the Claims Portal as the appropriate means by which to process this
claim. The letter to which I have already referred in extenso makes it perfectly clear that
this, at least potentially, was a substantial claim.
15 Third, the Master had to consider the prejudice that might be caused should the admission
be withdrawn. Clearly there would be prejudice to the claimant. She had her fall very
nearly four years ago. Given the terms of the admission which was made only just over a
year after the accident, she had had no cause to engage in any exercise of recollection as to
how the accident happened. No investigation had been made as to the precise
circumstances. The prejudice that would be caused to the defendant, should the application
be refused, self-evidently was substantial because they will face a significant claim, but that
must be very much bound up with the nature of the claim and its prospects of success.
16 The Master had to consider the stage of the proceedings. True it is that this admission was
sought to be withdrawn only shortly after proceedings were issued, but standing back the
Master had to, and did, consider the overall timescale. It can hardly be said that this
admission was sought to be withdrawn very shortly after it was made. Far from it. Even
when the supposedly unexpected nature of the claim became known, it was many months
before an indication was given that the admission would be withdrawn. The issue,
therefore, that the Master concentrated on, and upon which I am invited also to concentrate,
is the prospect of success should the admission be withdrawn of the claimant’s claim.
17 I shall return to that issue in a moment. Equally, the final factor referred to in the Practice
Direction is the interests of the administration of justice. I referred to this factor in Cavell v
Transport for London. If clear and unequivocal admissions which have led to a substantial
investigation of quantum and to interim payments being made apparently without question
can be withdrawn many months later, there will be real damage to the administration of
justice. It undermines the basis on which parties to this type of litigation conduct
THE JUDGE’S VIEW
21 Whether the Master needed to engage in what effectively amounted to a conclusion that the
claimant was bound to succeed is, in my view, in doubt. What he had to do was consider
the prospects of success. The highest that Mr Jones now can put it is that this was a case
where the matter ought to be tested and where the claimant should be put to proof. Even on
the basis upon which Mr Jones now puts it, it seems to me that the prospects of success on
either side were not such that it inevitably means that leave should be given to withdraw the
admission. This was a case in which Mrs Wright has perfectly legitimate prospects of
success. As is argued on behalf of Mrs Wright, the Master was not considering a full trial.
He was exercising his case management powers. He did not concentrate on a single factor.
He had to consider all the factors to which I have referred by reference to the Practice
22 Taking all those matters into account, the Master was entitled to conclude that it was not
appropriate to permit the withdrawal of the admission. It does not seem to me that there is
sufficient in the way in which it is now argued on behalf of the respondent that to
demonstrate that the Master can be said to have gone so plainly wrong that I should interfere
with his decision. It was well within the range of reasonable decisions that could be made in
a case of this sort. That being the case, I am satisfied that there is no proper basis for this
23 I should add that were I being asked to remake the decision from scratch, albeit in a
different way, I would nonetheless have reached exactly the same decision as the Master.
Not only can it not be shown that he went wrong, it seems to me that the conclusion that he
reached was right, and therefore this appeal is dismissed
SOME MORE OF THE WIT AND WISDOM OF BLIND DOG RALPH (RETIRED)
Relieved to have my surgical coat off. Navy blue was so ageing! –
A quiet night and I’ve eaten and been for a sniff around the garden. Plan to spend the day snoozing –
Some rather coarse people at next table speculating about The Human’s sex life. For the price of a mixed grill I’ll tell all …
Though I say it myself this is a rather nice picture of me
Train came in the “wrong” side of the station today. I coped, but feel this should attract a premium …
WHITE STUFF! WHITE STUFF! –
The Human’s breakfast in Wetherspoons up by 10p. That’s his topic of conversation sorted for the next two months then…
Just seen truck delivering to the large pet shop by the train station. I now know how The Human feels when seeing barrels delivered to a pub…
Ah taxi drivers – sadly always the weakest link – never mind you couldn’t find The Human’s house, and you nearly crashed screeching “Keep him off the seats!” (NB I always avoid faux leather!)
Big swim across a lake today. Feel I should get a badge to sew on my harness … –
RALPH’S EARLIER SUGGESTIONS FOR THIS BLOG…
NOT FROM ME IT WASN’T