Hallam Estates & Anor v Baker (2014)

This Court of Appeal decision helpfully clarifies that applications for extensions of time made before the relevant deadline expires, even if the hearing of the application occurs after the deadline expires, need not be treated as though they are applications for relief from sanctions. The decision also emphasises that  legal representatives have a duty to agree to reasonable extensions of time which neither imperil future hearing dates nor otherwise disrupt the conduct of the litigation. Moreover, courts are advised not to refuse to grant reasonable extensions of time.

The claimants (Hallam) applied for a time extension following the defendant (Baker) refusing to agree one. The application was made on the day the deadline expired, but was not stamped by court staff until a day later. The extension was granted and Baker unsuccessfully applied for that order to be set aside. On appeal, the court found that Hallam’s application had been out of time and was effectively an application for relief from sanctions, which should have been refused.

The Court of Appeal (led by Lord Justice Jackson) allowed Hallam’s appeal. It found that Hallam’s application for an extension was made before the expiry of the relevant deadline. Lord Justice Jackson stated, “….the costs judge was dealing with an in-time application. This was a straightforward application to extend time under rule 3.1(2)(a). The principles concerning relief from sanctions which the Court of Appeal enunciated in Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd are not applicable”.

The Court held that Hallam had made a reasonable application for an extension of time, which did not imperil any future hearing dates or otherwise disrupt the proceedings. The lower court’s rejection of Baker’s application to set aside the extension, for which the court gave sensible reasons, was a proper exercise of the court’s case management powers. When Hallam asked Baker to agree an extension of time, Hallam had given sensible reasons and Baker should have agreed. Given Baker’s  own delays, Baker should not have objected to granting a modest extension.

The Court of Appeal observed that under newly amended CPR 3.8, parties may agree a time extension of up to 28 days without seeking court permission, provided that it did not put at risk any hearing date. Therefore legal representatives are not in breach of any duty to their client if they agree to a reasonable extension of time which neither imperils future hearing dates nor otherwise disrupts the conduct  of litigation. On the contrary, by avoiding the need for a contested application they were furthering the overriding objective and also saving costs. Similarly, the Court of Appeal held that the courts should not refuse, and CPR 1.1(2)(f) did not require them to refuse, to grant reasonable extensions of time in such circumstances.