In a case which highlighted the need for co-operation between opposing legal teams even in the most hotly contested litigation, the High Court has called for mediation and an end to procedural point scoring in a commercial dispute in which legal costs bills were projected to exceed £2 million.
An investment bank’s customer was suing it for £1.3 million, claiming that he had been mis-sold investments. Because the bank had served its costs budget one day beyond a deadline set by the Court, the customer’s lawyers argued that its defence should be struck out and a default judgment entered.
In dismissing those arguments as ‘manifest nonsense’ and ‘a misguided piece of opportunism’, the Court found that it had been agreed between the parties in correspondence that the deadline would be extended. The application had only served to damage further the relationship of trust and confidence that ought to have existed between the parties legal representatives.
Rather than concentrating on sterile procedural issues, the Court urged the parties to focus on conducting the litigation efficiently and at proportionate cost. Preliminary costs budgets totalled more than £2 million and, given the amount in dispute, the case ‘cried out for mediation’, the Court observed.