Seventh Earl of Malmesbury v Strutt & Parker – sealed judgment should not be re-opened [2007] EWHC 2199 (QB)

Once a judgment has been sealed, it is final and the judge has no jurisdiction to re-open it. This is so even where the judgment in question concerned only some of the issues on quantum in the case, the others of which were to be determined at trial. The judge was also unable to revisit his refusal to allow the claimant to appeal on the preliminary issue. The claimant’s only course was to apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal.

Comment: there is nothing new in this decision but it does remind litigators with admirable clarity that judgments are intended to be final and the appeal process should not be circumvented. The practice of handing down draft judgments in recent years has led to a tendency to presume that judges can be leant on with additional written submissions from counsel after the hearing. Exceptional circumstances are required for such an attempt to succeed and are rarely present – see for example Compagnie Noga d'Importation et d'Exportation SA v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. However, where the judge himself has second thoughts about his judgment following submissions from the parties, he must correct it so as to avoid the additional cost of an appeal (Robinson v Fernsby). Once the judgment is sealed, it is usually the case that it cannot be revisited except to correct a mistake under the slip rule, CPR 40.12, which provides that the court may “at any time correct an accidental slip or omission in a judgment or order”.