One of the issues which the judge considered in this case (although not required to do so), was whether it had been correct to grant the claimant an extension of time for serving the claim form (pursuant to CPR r7.6). It is well-established that a good reason must be given for seeking the extension.
The claimant had advanced two reasons:
- Lack of funding. That argument was rejected by the judge: "it seems clear that the court will not generally recognise mere lack of funding as such a reason: Cecil v Bayat" (see Weekly Update 08/11). In the Bayat case it was held that although it might not have been viable for the claimants to take proceedings to trial without the benefit of a CFA or ATE insurance, they could still have commenced and served proceedings before funding had been finalised.
- Time was needed to gather further evidence. The judge said that although this might have justified the seeking of a stay once the proceedings were launched, it was hard to see how it would be a reasonable ground for holding up service of the claim form (in this case, for nearly 18 months).
More generally, the underlying allegation in this case involves physical mistreatment for which the claimant was said to be vicariously liable. It was argued that the court should have regard to the stress and poor health with which the claimant has had to contend in recent years.
Although the judge accepted that sometimes it may be appropriate to allow some generosity where a claimant's difficulties can already be seen as attributable to wrongdoing on the part of the defendant (eg in personal injury or clinical negligence cases) that did not apply here, since it was a fundamental issue as to whether any of this claimant's problems should be laid at the door of the defendants at all.
The judge cautioned that extensions should not go through "on the nod", and he said he would have set aside the extension granted in this case.