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High Court warns over ‘unreasonable opposition’ to extensions of time

Compliance with some court orders 'cannot sensibly be regarded as written in stone'

13 June 2013

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Courts must scrutinise post-Jackson applications for extensions of time more rigorously than before, but avoid going to the "other extreme" and encouraging "unreasonable opposition", the High Court has said.

Mr Justice Henderson said there were some court orders relating to completion of specified stages in preparation for trial, such as disclosure or exchange of witness statements, where "there may still be so many imponderables when the order is made that the date for compliance cannot sensibly be regarded as written in stone".

He was ruling in Re Atrium Training Services and Connor Williams [2013] EWHC 1562, an insolvency case.

Henderson J referred to the High Court's ruling at the end of last month in Venulum Property Investments v Space Architecture and others [2013] EWHC 1242, where the judge refused an application for an extension of time, relying partly on the stricter post-Jackson approach.

He said it was "no doubt the case that the court will scrutinise an application for an extension more rigorously than it might have done before 1 April, and that it must firmly discourage any easy assumption that an extension of time will be granted if it would not involve any obvious prejudice to the other side."

"On the other hand, I think it is important not to go to the other extreme, and not to encourage unreasonable opposition to extensions which are applied for in time and which involve no significant fresh prejudice to the other parties.

"In cases of that nature, considerations of cost and proportionality are highly relevant, and the wider interests of justice are likely to be better served by a sensible agreement, or a short unopposed hearing, than by the adoption of entrenched positions and the expenditure of much money and court time in preparing for and dealing with an application that could have been avoided."

Henderson J added: "Everything will always depend on the circumstances of the particular case, and the stage in the proceedings when the order is made, but in many such cases it should be understood that there may be a need for reasonable extensions of time or other adjustments as the matter develops."

Mr Justice Henderson ruled that the liquidators of Atrium Training should be granted an extension of time to comply with their disclosure obligations under an order made in November.

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