One law firm's mistake becomes a grave lesson for litigators

The Court of Appeal has handed down one of the most keenly awaited court judgments of the year. The decision in Mitchell MP v News Group Newspapers Ltd makes clear that those who do not comply with the new court rules will be penalised heavily in costs with no — or very little — chance of obtaining relief. In Lord Dyson’s words: ‘[This] more robust approach… will mean that from now on relief from sanctions should be granted more sparingly than previously.’ Those not concerned with the legal detail and the nitty gritty of the court rules might like to jump to the commercial tips at the bottom of this briefing where we list actions you can take to avoid significant costs penalties when involved in litigation.

This has been a year of change for litigators and their clients. Following a comprehensive review of civil litigation costs by Lord Justice Jackson, substantial changes to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) were made in April 2013. The changes were intended to control costs and promote access to justice. The revised rules have been in place for nearly eight months and already they have brought in a whole new approach to conducting litigation. Just have a look at some of the recent cases on costs budgeting, Part 36 offers and disclosure as commented on in our last newsletter, Costs and Compliance: six months in.

One case in particular has attracted a lot of attention — in the public as well as the legal arena. That case is the publicly fought defamation battle between Mr Mitchell and the News Group following the latter’s reporting in The Sun newspaper of the incident commonly referred to as ‘plebgate’…

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