STRIKING OUT AT TRIAL BECAUSE THE CASE WAS A MESS: A WARNING FOR THOSE WHO WANT LIFE WITHOUT LAWYERS
On a day when the Lord Chief Justice has stated that the legal system must adapt to life without lawyers. It is interesting to read this report of the problems caused by litigants in person. It has kindly been provided by counsel to the Defendant. We have here the report from counsel and the skeleton argument.
Verilocation Ltd –v- Edward Gilder & Sons Ltd
Unreported, Fast Track Trial
Northampton County Court 5th October 2015
Recorder Wilson (Ct 6)
Representation of a company acting in person – conditions.
Strike-out application – breaches of Rules and Practice Directions on Particulars of Claim and Trial Bundle – whether sufficient reasons to strike out.
The Claimant, a company providing sophisticated GPS vehicle tracking services, acted in person since issuing their Claim in January 2015 through their accounts manager – whose role changed to ‘Legal Officer’ and then ‘Head of Legal’ on letters to the Defendant by the time of trial.
The Defendant company’s Defence and Counterclaim was filed and served by solicitors, who subsequently came off the record before the date for filing and serving witness statements. The Defendant engaged counsel under the Public Access Scheme and applied (out of time) for an extension of time to file and serve their witness statement. Their Application had not been decided by the trial date.
The Claimant filed and served the Trial Bundle on the Defendant on 1st October 2015. The Defendant immediately filed and served an Application to strike out under CPR 3.4 (See skeleton argument).
Recorder Wilson asked who represented the Claimant. The Head of Legal answered in the affirmative. The Recorder pointed out that if she was a witness she could not also represent the company. The Head of Legal suggested that her Managing Director could instead represent the company but was met with the response that he, too, was a witness and could hardly be expected to prepare for a trial in five minutes if he dropped out as a witness.
The Defendant submitted that the Application to represent the company was unsupported by either a witness statement from a Director or a Board Resolution as required by CPR 38.6 & 38.6(a) and conditions in PD39A.5.2-5.6 and that there was no good reason (Denton) why the Claimant could not have complied with Rules and Practice Directions given that the litigation had been conducted throughout by a ‘Legal Officer’.
The Defendant submitted the Trial Bundle did not comply with PD39A.3.2-3.5 in that it did not contain the Defence or Counterclaim, case summary or chronology, any witness statements or summaries, no Court Orders giving directions besides being un-indexed, without dividers and with no attempt being made to agree the contents with the Defendant.
As to the Particulars of Claim, objection was taken in that it alleged no breach, did not seek a remedy (CPR 16.2(1)(a) & 16.2.1), did not contain a statement of value (CPR 16.2(1)(b)), had no statement of the amount the Claimant expected to recover (CPR 16.2(c) & 16.3(2)(a)) and attached no written copy of the agreement sought to be relied upon (16PD.7.3(1)).
The Recorder promptly refused permission for either of the Claimant’s witnesses to address the Court, before acceding to the strike out application on the grounds that the Particulars of Claim and Trial Bundle were a ‘mess’ which was so extensive as to be incapable of amendment without causing complications in the subsequent litigation and interfering with the timetabling of other matters before the Court. Costs were awarded for the Defendant upon summary assessment.
THE SKELETON ARGUMENT
IN THE COUNTY COURT AT NORTHAMPTON Claim No. B5QZ9797
EDWARD GILDER & SONS LIMITED
SKELETON ARGUMENT ON
BEHALF OF THE DEFENDANT
- The Particulars of Claim (p.214 Trial Bundle) do not comply with the Civil Procedure Rules in that they:
- do not identify any breach of contract, under CPR 16.2(1)(a) & 16.2.1; and
- do not specify the remedy sought under CPR 16.2(1)(b); and
- do not contain a statement of value under CPR 16.2(1)(c) and 3(2)(a); and
- do not contain a statement of the amount the Claimant expects to recover under CPR 16.3(2)(b) and 2.1; and
- do not have a copy of any written agreement attached under CPR 16PD.7.3(1).
- The un-indexed Trial Bundle (posted by Second Class post on 29 September 2015 and received by Defendant’s counsel on 1st October 2015) does not comply with CPR PD39A.3.2.
- The Claimant had adequate time and the resources to seek to remedy any and all non-compliance with the Civil Procedure Rules since issuing the Particulars of Claim on 28 January 2015.
- Their continued non-compliance amounts to an abuse of the Court’s process, obstructing a fair trial of this matter and disproportionately using up valuable resources at the expense of other litigants and the requirements of justice.
- The said non-compliance is serious and significant and, given that the Claimant has had the services of a Legal Officer (Helen Stockwin – p.217 Trial Bundle) from the outset there is no good reason for the non-compliance.
- In all the circumstances of the matter, taking into account any default by the Defendant, the Claim has not complied with the aforesaid Rules and Practice Directions from the issue of the Particulars of Claim.
- The Defendant therefore asks the Court to strike out the Particulars of Claim under CPR 3.4(2)(a)-(c) in that:
- the failure to identify any breach of contract provides no reasonable grounds for bringing the Claim; and
- the Particulars of Claim do not comply with Rules and Practice Directions to the extent that they are an abuse of the Court’s process and thus prevent the just disposal of the proceedings today and obstruct the progress of other litigation before the Court if further time is permitted for amendments and re-timetabling.
- Should the Court not be minded to strike out the Particulars of Claim, the Defendant submits that the matter should be adjourned to permit the necessary amendments under an Unless Order and re-timetabling with the costs of today being the Defendant’s in any event.