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Thinking of Engaging in Civil Litigation Without Legal Advice? Think Again!

Court procedures can be daunting to the uninitiated and that is one good reason why you should never engage in civil litigation without professional assistance. In a case on point, a businessman had a costly judgment entered against him simply because of his repeated failure to abide by the rules.

The businessman was sued by two claimants who said that he had induced them to make various payments and caused them to incur various costs in connection with proposed business ventures. The claim against him was framed in deceit, conspiracy and breach of contract but, despite the gravity of those allegations, he represented himself in the proceedings without the benefit of legal advice.

Judgment on the claim was entered against him due to his failure to comply with a court order requiring him to file in court further information regarding his defence. His defence was struck out and he was debarred from further defending the claim. He subsequently applied to have the judgment set aside on the basis that it had been granted on false and inaccurate assertions by the claimants.

That application was, however, made after the expiry of a 14-day time limit and did not adequately set out the grounds on which it was made. It was unaccompanied by evidence, which was not filed until some time later. The defective application was initially dismissed, but the businessman was subsequently granted an oral hearing at which it was considered afresh.

He asserted, amongst other things, that his delay in filing evidence arose from his self-isolation, as a vulnerable person, during the COVID-19 crisis. In ruling on the matter, however, a judge noted that simply referring to the pandemic, without explaining the effect it had on him, could not amount to an excuse for his serious and significant breaches of the rules.

In dismissing his application, the judge noted the overriding objective of dealing with cases justly and at proportionate cost. There was also a powerful public interest in parties being dealt with on an equal footing and finality being achieved. The ruling meant that the judgment against him remained in force.  He was also ordered to pay the substantial legal costs of the proceedings.