Whether delay in prosecuting the claim had obstructed the just disposal of the proceedings.

C brought a claim against D as a dependent under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 as a result of the deceased being fatally injured in an accident on D’s cruise ship in stormy weather in September 2006.

Proceedings were issued in September 2008. D accepted service of the proceedings on condition that the question of whether C was a dependent within the Act would be tried as a preliminary issue. This was agreed by C.

D brought the application to strike out the claim based on four periods of delay which totalled more than two years and contended that a fair trial was no longer possible because D’s safety officer at the time could not be traced.

Held: The application was dismissed on the basis that:

  • Mere delay was not a sufficient ground (however unsatisfactory) for striking out a claim;  
  • The prejudice caused by the delay was not such that it would render a fair trial impossible;
  • D would be able to adduce evidence to meet the principal allegations pleaded against them without the evidence of their then safety officer.