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Relief from sanctions and the big picture: Roberts v Fresse & Anor. [2018] EWHC 3867 (QB) - Niall Maclean, 12 King's Bench Walk

01/05/19. In March 2014 on a road just outside Dover, Christopher Roberts was involved in a serious accident in which his car was impacted head-on by a vehicle driven by Pascal Fresse. Mr Roberts sustained significant injuries. He was at the time of the accident a paraplegic as a result of an accident that had taken place several years earlier. Mr Fresse was at fault for the 2014 collision, but the nature and extent of its consequences for Mr Roberts is a matter of considerable complexity.

Reflecting that complexity, when Mr Roberts’ claim for damages came to be case managed by Master Thornett in 2018 the court granted permission for extensive expert evidence: nine experts for the Claimant, and twelve for the Defendants. The expert disciplines included neurology, neuropsychology, orthopaedic surgery, spinal cord injuries, life expectancy, care and accommodation.

The Defendants encountered difficulties in complying with the case management timetable for service of their expert evidence. Their legal representative suffered a prolonged period of ill health. He did not arrange appointments for the Claimant to be examined by the Defendants’ experts (save for one, an expert in spinal cord injuries). When a new solicitor took over the file in late 2018, it was realised there was insufficient time for the Claimant to be examined and reports produced prior to the deadline for service. The Claimant was asked to consent to an extension, which was refused. The Defendants made an application for relief from sanctions.

The application was heard on 18 December 2018 by Jason Coppel QC acting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court. The now familiar three-stage exercise set out by the Court of Appeal in Denton v TH White Ltd. [2014] EWCA Civ 906 fell to be considered.

As regards “stage one”, the...

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