Leggatt J’s recent decision to strike out the particulars of claim in Tchenguiz1 serves as a stark reminder that this severe sanction can be imposed to police not only compliance with Court Rules and Orders, but also the Court Guides.
The Court struck out the particulars of claim because they were much longer than sanctioned by Appendix 4 of the Commercial Court Guide; disallowed the costs of drafting them and ordered new particulars of claim complying with the Guide to be served within 21 days.
This case arose from an earlier case against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) following charges brought against Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz for alleged fraud and mis-dealings regarding the collapse of Kaupthing bank. That case ultimately ended with the Tchenguiz brothers securing damages and an apology from the SFO.
Vincent Tchenguiz subsequently sued accountants Grant Thornton and Kaupthing – whom he believed were involved in providing evidence to the SFO and alleged a conspiracy to induce the SFO to investigate the Claimants and cause the wrongful arrest of Vincent Tchenguiz on information they knew not to be true.
The Claimants submitted particulars of claim which were 94 pages long without seeking permission of the Court. This was a clear breach of the Commercial Court Guidelines which stipulate that statements of case must be no longer than 25 pages.
Judgment of Leggatt J
The judgment delivered was scathing in its criticism of the pleadings and those involved in preparing them. Leggatt J considered that “counsel responsible for drafting the particulars of claim must either be ignorant of the applicable requirements of the Commercial Court Guide or have taken a deliberate decision to disregard them.” He also remarked that the case “is not in essence a complicated one” but stated that the particulars of claim “flout all principles” of the Commercial Court Guide and that the phrasing is “often not just contentious but tendentious.” The Judge took the unusual step of seeking an explanation from the four Counsel whose names appeared on the pleadings.