Litigants in person, mental health, and relief from sanctions

PI_Nicola_Philipson By Nicola Phillipson

Elliott v Stobart Group

[2015] EWCA Civ 449

13th May 2015

Summarised by Nicola Phillipson

An application for an extension of time to serve medical evidence by a litigant in person with a mental health disability was refused where there had been a number of breaches and considerable delay, effectivly bringing proceedings to a halt. Appeal to Court of Appeal dismissed.  

The Appellant had been acting in person in his claim that an injunction obtained by the Respondent caused him to suffer psychiatric harm and loss. In March 2013 the Appellant was ordered to serve a medical report by 24th May. The Appellant initially sought a 14 day extension, and then a 30 day extension. At a CMC in July (at which the Appellant did not appear) it was ordered that the Appellant must serve medical evidence and a medical records mandate by 16th September. The Appellant was also given permission to apply to vary or discharge, with permission to make his application in writing. In default, the Respondent had permission to make an application to strike out. Listed for a CMC on 14th November 2013.

The appellant did not serve a mandate, and did not serve any medical evidence until 13th November, at which time a provisional report was served. The Appellant subsequently made an application for an extension of time to serve the medical report and mandate, at which time the Respondent made an application for strike out.

The Judge applied Mitchell and Durrant (this was a pre-Denton application) and noted that this was the third breach of orders, and the delay in making the application was significant. The Appellant’s breaches “[have] effectively brought the enquiry into damaegs to a halt”, and taken two days of valuable court time. It was acknowledged that the strike out was draconian, but the Judge decided that this was the appropriate response given the Appellant’s culpable failure to progress his claim or engage properly with the court process, and balancing the Appellant’s right to a fair trial with the Respondent’s.

The Appellant (now represented) appealed, particularly noting that not only had he been a litigant in person, but one with a mental disability.

The Court of Appeal (considering Denton) concluded that the Judge had been right to treat the application as akin to an application for relief from samctions. It was also noted that the Appellant’s failures had brought proceedings to a halt, had taken a considerable amount of court time, and “dealing justly with the application involves the interests of both parties being weighed in the balance”. The appeal was refused on the basis that the Judge’s conclusion was one which fell well within the range of reasonabel decision making.

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2 comments

  1. […] Nicola Phillipson considered an application for relief from sanctions made by a litigant in person with a mental health disability in Litigants in person, mental health, and relief from sanctions […]

  2. […] for relief from sanctions made by a litigant in person with a mental health disability in Litigants in person, mental health, and relief from sanctions (June […]

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