Denton v White guidance applied

26 August 2014

In little more than a month since the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment ...

… in the Denton v White and others [2014] EWCA Civ 906 appeals, the guidance set out in that case has already been applied by the High Court with NNN v D1 and another [2014] EWHC B14 (QB) seeing the setting aside of a default judgment which had been obtained for breach of an unless order for disclosure.

The application for relief from sanctions arose in the context of privacy injunction. In considering the application, HHJ Moloney concluded that the First Defendant, who was a litigant in person, had filed the list of documents as soon as possible after the deadline (which fell on a Bank Holiday) and had done his best to comply with the order. Those facts, in circumstances where the Claimant already had the material documents, meant that very limited prejudice had been caused to the Claimant.

The decision provides an early example of how Denton v White and others appeals will be applied. By way of reminder, the three stage test outlined in that decision requires the Court (when considering an application for relief from sanctions) to:

1. Assess the seriousness and significance of the breach

2. Consider whether there is a good reason for the breach

3. Evaluate all the circumstances of the case

It is hoped that the Court of Appeal's guidance will bring to an end the previous state of flux, where the litigation landscape had found itself fraught with pitfalls and hazards.  It is, however, still early days – and whilst the above decision shows signs that it is being applied by the Courts, it remains to be seen to what extent previous refusals of relief from sanctions will be appealed (and what the outcomes of those appeals will be).

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