The time limits set out for appealing decisions, final or otherwise, in the CPR are there to be obeyed in all but unusual cases.
The Court of Appeal reaffirmed this in Yeates v Aviva Insurance UK Ltd, in which Yates applied for an extension of time to appeal against the grant of summary judgment against him on his claim against the defendant. Yates' claim appeared fraudulent but in granting summary judgment the court gave leave to appeal on the basis that the law concerning fraudulent claims was still developing and his decision had serious consequences for Yates.
Yates appealed eight months out of time, following the defendant taking steps to enforce the judgment it had obtained on its counterclaim. Yates alleged he had no knowledge of the time limit applicable for appealing, though it transpired that his former solicitors had advised him on the point.
The Court of Appeal held it would not be right to extend the time for appealing as rules regarding time limits had to be obeyed in all but unusual cases. The checklist in CPR 3.9, which sets out the factors to be considered when granting relief from sanctions, makes no express reference to either the merits of the appeal or the prejudice that might be suffered if an extension is not granted.
The merits of a prospective appeal could be considered if the question of an extension of time was difficult to resolve. The court held it wasn't here. Despite knowing the time limit, Yates had done nothing to pursue his appeal until the defendant sought to enforce its judgment. The merits of the appeal were also questionable.
Things to consider
This decision will have a bearing on cases where an opponent has buried its head in the sand and failed to appeal within the specified time limit. It will be of use in persuading the court that an extension of time should not be granted unless there are exceptional circumstances.