The Court considered the importance of accurate calculation of time periods, accurate drafting of witness statements and complete and open correspondence with the Court and all parties.

The background

In Evans v Pinsent Masons LLP [2019], the parties were engaged in a dispute regarding invoices for costs raised by the respondent legal practice for payment by the claimant. The claimant was refused permission to appeal a particular point but she was entitled to apply to renew her application for permission to appeal within a period of 7 days, on or before 28 May 2019. The 27 May 2019 was a bank holiday.

The claimant’s new solicitors, SSA, contacted the Court on 30 May 2019 to state that they believed the final day for the claimant to make her application was that day, 30 May 2019, to take into account the bank holiday. The respondent was not copied into the correspondence.

Having later received copies of the Court’s notice of hearing and a copy of the 30 May 2019 letter, Pinsent Masons replied to state that they believed the time period had expired on 28 May 2019 as the bank holiday could only be excluded where the period was no greater than 5 days. SSA applied for relief and an extension, stating that they were aware of the time expiry being 28 May 2019 but requested an oral hearing as soon as the matter came to a partner’s attention. This contradicted the letter of 30 May 2019. The Court initially extended time, and Pinsent Masons applied to the High Court for reconsideration.

The decision

The High Court agreed with Pinsent Masons, overturning the first instance decision and rejecting the claimant’s application for permission to appeal. In particular, the Court commented that a partner of the claimant’s legal team risked misleading the court, finding that original evidence was unacceptable; the Court queried whether the letter of 30 May had been submitted with a pre-existing understanding that the relevant time period had expired on 28 May. Further evidence supplied to clarify the situation by SSA was deemed ‘extremely unsatisfactory’.

The Court also criticised the decision not to copy Pinsent Masons into the letter of 30 May, denying them the opportunity to respond and deeming this a ‘serious failure’. Although the delay had been short, the Court refused relief and the claimant was unable to make a new application for permission to appeal.

Advice and action for landlords

Indicative of the importance the Court places on accuracy, as well as openness in correspondence and quality and consistency of evidence, this case serves as a warning for legal advisers. With regards to bank holidays, any order referring to a period of 7 days will include bank holidays; bank holidays are only excluded for periods of 5 days or less.

Solicitors must be open and ensure that drafting, including witness statements and correspondence between the court and all parties, are candid, clear and accurate. Correspondence must be copied to the other side, allowing all parties the opportunity to respond to any application or request of the Court. The Court in this case also criticised SSA’s internal communications breakdown between a partner and trainee, which resulted in a serious failure to manage the case properly.

The High Court agreed with Pinsent Masons, rejecting the claimant’s application for permission to appeal. The Court commented that a partner of the claimant’s legal team risked misleading the court, finding that evidence presented was unacceptable.