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Payment of the Incorrect Court Fee; Does It Give Rise to a Limitation Defence? (Answer: Almost Certainly Not) - Andrew Roy, 12 King's Bench Walk

05/04/17. Wells v Wood, Lincoln County Court, HHJ Godsmark QC 9 December 2016, 2016 WL 07330089

Introduction

  1. In the professional negligence case of Lewis v Ward Hadaway [2015] EWHC 3503 (Ch); [2016] 4 W.L.R. 6 several claims were held to be statute barred as a result of underpayment of court fees.

  1. Lewis has generated no small amount of enthusiasm on the defendant side and anxiety on the claimant side. These reactions have proved misplaced.

  1. Subsequent reported attempts to deploy Lewis have not been successful. The most recent of these, Wells v Wood, makes clear that the scope for its application in personal injury cases is vanishingly small.

Lewis

  1. In this case the claimants (as in their solicitors) delivered the claim forms to the court just before the expiration of the limitation period. However, they deliberately understated the value on the claim forms in order to defer paying the full court fee (which, had they decided not to serve, would never have been paid). They subsequently amended shortly before service to reflect the claims’ true value, paying the appropriate fee at that later time.

  1. Mr John Male QC held that, although this conduct constituted an abuse of process, it would be disproportionate to strike the claims out on that basis. This was notwithstanding that the same solicitors had been subject to heavy criticism by other judges in earlier cases for precisely the same practice.

  1. However, the same discreditable behaviour led to...

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