Many of us still remember the sleepless nights that followed the 2013 decision in Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWCA Civ 1537. This was the unforgettable moment when Mr Mitchell’s claim against the Sun newspaper was subject to a costs order limited to court fees only following the late filing of the costs budget and the impact of CPR 3.14 –
Unless the court otherwise orders, any party which fails to file a budget despite being required to do so will be treated as having filed a budget comprising only the applicable court fees.
There then followed a period of terror (!) when cases were struck out for minor breaches of directions and applications for relief from sanctions were routinely refused. The world then settled down a bit following Denton v TH White  EWCA Civ 906. Denton established the now familiar 3 fold test –
- Was the breach serious and significant?
- What was the reason for the breach?
- Consideration of ‘all the circumstances of the case’.
Denton led to a collective sight of relief. But the importance of compliance did not go away. We have seen a timely and important reminder in the case of John Fiddler v Dreams Ltd reported on the Farrar’s Building website at – https://www.farrarsbuilding.co.uk/claimant-files-serves-precedent-h-one-day-late-in-900000-claim-relief-refused-and-claimants-costs-limited-to-court-fees-only/
This was a personal injury claim arising out of an accident at work. It was initially said to valued at less than £25k. The claim for special damages was far and there were eventually two unless orders requiring the claimant to produce a proper schedule of losses and also to pay the right fee. The Schedule of losses exceeded £880k. The case was listed for a CCMC. The claimant served his Precedent H 20 days before the hearing – a day late. There was no application for relief from sanctions ahead of the CCMC despite reminders from the defendant. Directions were given and the claimant’s costs were limited to court fees only.
About a week later the claimant finally applied for relief from sanctions. The solicitors argued that the breach was not serious or significant. Their reason was that the breach was caused by a misunderstanding of the rules. Not surprisingly, these arguments fell on stony ground. Denton test 3. Was doomed to failure as the application for relief was submitted after much delay by a party who had already been subject to 2 unless orders.
This case is unusual in that there were a series of failures. But the lesson is clear.
CPR 3.14 is a draconian sanction. It hasn’t gone away.
But if you do find yourself missing a deadline, apply for relief right away!