I am delighted to have had a complex litigation case that I am working on reported in the England and Wales Law Reports. For a solicitor, this is a big deal as there are fewer and fewer cases that get to litigation these days!
When a case is reported it means that the technical legal issues involved are either interesting or significant (or both) resulting in the Judge decided that the case is worthy of publication so that other lawyers can use it to clarify a particular point of law.
The case in question involved a mechanical services installation subcontractor, my client, who had carried out work on a care home in Stoke-on-Trent in 2010-2011 and the technical legal issue being considered was that of limitation.
The claimant, who was the main contractor, alleged incomplete and defective works, while the subcontractor, my client, made a counterclaim for sums outstanding on its final account.
Further controversy arose when the claimant attempted to amend its allegations against my clients four years after the court process began claiming that the fire dampers that had been installed had not been correctly designed and that my client should have warned the claimant that the dampers were different from the original design.
I opposed the amendment forcing the claimant to apply to the court for permission to amend and argued, amongst other things, that the dampers did meet the agreed specification and, due to limitation, the claimant was out of time and not entitled to make the amendment.
In response, the claimant cited a High Court case involving Mastercard. The Mastercard case said that if an amendment is late but the substance of it is agreed by both parties, it can be backdated to the date of the application (not the date of the actual breach). We, of course, did not agree with the amendment, but the claimant’s legal team came up with a novel argument to suggest that the Mastercard case didn’t actually require any agreement between the parties.
The High Court Judge, having considered both parties’ submissions, did not agree with the claimant’s novel argument and furthermore deemed the requested amendments relating to the fire dampers as having no prospect of success. The High Court Judge, therefore, found in my client’s favour on these points
These issues are legally complex but that is the nature of litigation. In acting for clients, it is necessary to pour over every detail of a dispute and have an intricate knowledge of the procedural rules and requirements as success can often hinge on very technical matters.
For me, it was extremely satisfying to have a case dealt with by a specialist division of the High Court and for the legal arguments made to be so significant that they warranted reporting to aid interpretation of the law in future limitation cases.
Full details of the High Court case are available to read online: D R Jones Yeovil Limited v Drayton Beaumont Services Limited