RELIEF FROM SANCTIONS: CANDOUR FROM THE APPLICANT AND NO EVIDENCE FROM THE DEFENDANT TO PROVE PREJUDICE
There is a report of a case where relief from sanctions was granted in Anglia Autoflow North America LLC and Another v Anglia Autoflow Ltd  Costs LR 155. One thing that marks this case is the total candour from the claimant’s solicitor and the absence of any evidence from the defendant to prove that it had suffered any prejudice as it alleged.
“it seems to me that it is incumbent on the defendant to have adduced evidence that it did, in fact, so place it if that is a point on which it wants to rely”
The claimant had succeeded at trial. The claimant’s solicitor had failed to give notice of funding arrangements as prescribed by the CPR. This meant that the claimant could not recover any additional liabilities unless relief from sanctions was granted.
THE CLAIMANT’S CANDOUR
The judge recorded the applicant’s candour.
3. There is before me a witness statement from Mr Frape of the first claimant’s solicitors. He candidly accepts that he was probably completely unaware of the requirement to give notice of the funding arrangement within seven days of entering into it. He does not seek to excuse his ignorance, although he points out that that particular failure was remedied by the reference to the funding arrangement in the letter before action sent on 8 February 2018. As to the form N251, he cannot now recall why no copy was either filed with the court or served with the claim form. He says that he discovered the error when he was checking funding issues prior to the CMC on 25 April 2019 and that he remedied the position immediately by both filing and serving the form the following day and issuing the present application within a further few days.
4. In the circumstances, he correctly accepts that ignorance is no excuse for his failure to provide the information prior to the letter before claim and he does not seek relief on behalf of the first claimant for that period. However, he argues that, thereafter, the defendant had received and was aware of all the information regarding the first claimant’s funding to which it was entitled. Moreover, Mr Frape points out that, although form N251 was not filed with the court when it should have been, the error was remedied so far as the court was concerned prior to the CMC which is the first occasion on which the court would actually have engaged with the case. In those circumstances, it is said to have been a defect of form rather than substance, which caused no prejudice.
Julia Dyas QC, sitting as a judge of the High Court, granted relief from sanctions.
- There were three separate breaches not one composite breach.
- The defendant was given all the information required in the letter before action. The failure to send the relevant form could only be described as a “trivial and technical breach”
“I do not accept Mr Evans-Tovey’s submission that breaches of this nature are invariably significant and serious. It seems to me that it depends very much on the facts of each particular case and my reading of the authorities does not suggest otherwise.”
3. A failure to file a form N251 had do discernible adverse effect on the management of the case by the court.
4. There was no evidence of specific prejudice.
“Insofar as Mr Evans-Tovey sought to rely on what he called the “objective prejudice”, it seems to me that those points really go to the seriousness and significance of the breach and, in particular, significance. When one is looking at all the circumstances and if one is looking at the question of prejudice, it seems to me that one needs to look at the prejudice to the particular litigant and whether there was actual prejudice or not. I am therefore not prepared to proceed on the basis of an inference as to how the default might or might not have affected the defendant. It is clear that receipt of a letter before claim that referred to a CFA, shortly followed by a claim form which did not, might in principle have placed a litigant in a quandary or doubt, but it seems to me that it is incumbent on the defendant to have adduced evidence that it did, in fact, so place it if that is a point on which it wants to rely. That, it seems to me, is an approach supported by the judgment in Springer at .”
5. The submission that there was prejudice was unrealistic.