Delay is a common cause of injustice, and anyone involved in litigation should know that judges take a firm line against foot-dragging. In one case, a road accident victim whose case was allowed to go to seed for a prolonged period came within an ace of having his claim dismissed without a hearing.
The minicab driver was injured in a collision and issued a claim for over £370,000 in damages against the other driver involved. The latter admitted liability but, thereafter, the litigation was mired in delay. In striking out the claim, a judge noted that the case had lamentably ground to a halt. He found that the delay amounted to an obstruction of the just disposal of the proceedings.
Ruling on the cab driver’s appeal against that outcome, the High Court noted that the delay extended over about a year. The judge was fully entitled to make a robust finding that the failure to progress the case towards trial amounted to an abuse of process. The other driver’s solicitors had repeatedly attempted to move matters along and no good reason had been provided for the delay.
Upholding the appeal, however, the Court found that, given the admission of liability, it would be proportionate to reinstate the claim. The Court’s decision did not come free from sanctions: the cab driver was ordered to pay the legal costs incurred by the other driver arising from the delay on a punitive indemnity basis. He was further directed to file a witness statement within 21 days or face the prospect of his claim being struck out for a second time.