Courts endorse strict new approach
The Court of Appeal sent out a clear message yesterday that deadlines imposed on parties will be strictly applied. In the case of Andrew Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Limited, the Court has limited the recoverable costs of the MP’s legal team to court fees only. This means that if he wins his libel action against the newspaper group, it will not have to pay his legal fees, which are estimated at approximately £500,000.The order was made after Mr Mitchell’s lawyers missed a deadline for submitting their costs budget. In this landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal said that sanctions will apply when the costs budget, which is a new requirement, is filed beyond the deadline. If no adequate excuse for missing the deadline is provided (and a few excuses were argued by Mr Mitchell’s legal team), then sanctions will be applied.The Court said that although this ruling may seem harsh in this particular case, the alternative decision would have caused a major setback in the attempt to change the litigation culture (through the Jackson reforms which came into effect in April this year) towards a stricter compliance with court deadlines.Parties in a dispute should be aware of this new strict approach being taken by the courts in relation to compliance with rules and directions. If it seems that deadlines will be missed, proper notice should be given to the court with decent excuses – otherwise parties will find themselves in the same situation as Mr Mitchell and his legal team.
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