Should the court take into account the stress of court delay?

Should the court take into account the stress of court delay?

Many practitioners, especially those dealing clients that have a personal interest in a dispute, will know that one of the most difficult issues for such clients is dealing with the stress that comes from being involved in court proceedings.  Whilst a certain amount of stress is to be expected what about the stress that comes from delays in the proceedings?  With the expectation of more litigants in person will we see the courts looking not looking just at case and costs management issues when dealing with delays but factoring in the stress upon those parties who have not contributed to the delay?

In French v Savelieva [2013] EWHC 2537 (Ch), Purle J did exactly that when he granted permission to appeal and granted the appeal so preventing the defendant from obtaining expert evidence.  In doing so, he placed considerable weight on the stress to the claimants caused by the delay in obtaining the initial permission to obtain such evidence.  Purle J considered that dealing with such evidence in this case would result in the prolonging proceedings which the claimants, on the facts, must have thought had come to an end.  The stress resulting from this would not be compensated for by costs orders.

Is this a one off?  Is the consideration of stress caused likely to be limited to the types of claims the court was dealing with in this case i.e. an adjudication through Her Majesty's Land Registry?  Could we see the courts taking more account of the stress to parties caused by delays?  If so how would courts be able to reconcile this approach with the right to justice – when is a delay too long?

Have you encountered the court taking into account the stress on parties when involved in adjudications or court proceedings? If so, please leave us a comment below.


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About the author:

Janna is a dispute resolution lawyer. She deals primarily with cross border issues and is active in the work being undertaken in relation to the implications of Brexit for Dispute Resolution lawyers. Janna also heads up a LexisNexis costs team bringing together expertise from across the company to deal with the costs issues facing the profession.