Relief from sanctions and a legal headache?

In the recent combined Court of Appeal decision in Denton v TH White Ltd, Decadent Vapours Ltd v Bevan and Utilise TDS Ltd v Davies [2014] EWCA Civ 906, the court dealt with three conjoined appeals concerning both grants of relief from sanction and refusal of such grants. The case has sought to remedy the confusion caused by the inconsistent interpretation of the guidelines arising out of the case of Mitchell v News Group Newspapers [2013] EWCA Civ 1537.

Under Mitchell, the court adopted an uncompromising approach to relief from sanction which left parties unsure as to how strictly the court would impose consequences for non-compliance with rules, directions and orders. As a result, parties were beginning to take advantage of any procedural mistakes (however minor) made by their opponents in an attempt to gain an advantage in the litigation. At DWF, we had particular interest in the outcome of this Appeal as the issue of sanctions relief has arisen in a number of our recent cases — including the Appeal itself where we successfully represented one of the parties (Decadent Vapours Ltd) by overturning what the Appeal Court agreed was an ‘unduly draconian’ refusal of relief imposed on Decadent Vapours Ltd’s previous legal advisers.

The recent Court of Appeal decision in Denton has sought to clarify the Mitchell guidelines and provide solicitors with further guidance as to how they should be interpreted. The court has specified a three-stage test which must be followed when considering any relief from sanction applications made pursuant to CPR 3.9…

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