Springer (Personal Representative of The Estate of Wayne Anthony Springer (Deceased)) v University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 436

This is a very prominent Judgement where the Court of Appeal, in considering a second appeal against an order of a Deputy District Judge, dismissed the appeal against an order refusing the claimant relief from sanction following a failure to serve notice of funding in accordance with paragraph 9.3 of the old Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct.

This meant that the claimant would not recover the success fee under the conditional fee agreement for the period before notice was given and was also deprived of recovery of part of the After the Event insurance premium.

Paragraph 9.3 of the Practice Direction provided:

“Where a party enters into a funding arrangement within the meaning of rule 43.2(1)(k), that party must inform the other parties about this arrangement as soon as possible and in any event either within 7 days of entering into the funding arrangement concerned or, where a claimant enters into a funding arrangement before sending a letter before claim, in the letter before claim.

(CPR rule 44.3B(1)(c) provides that a party may not recover certain additional costs where information about a funding arrangement was not provided.)”

CPR 44.3B(1) imposes a sanction on those who failed to provide funding information as required and for conditional fee agreements entered into on or after 1 October 2009, it provided, so far as is relevant:

Unless the court orders otherwise, a party may not recover as an additional liability –

(c) any additional liability for any period during which that party failed to provide information about a funding arrangement in accordance with a rule, practice direction or court order…”.

With the case in question, there was a long delay in giving notice on Form N251 of the additional liabilities. The full details are set out in the judgment, but the crux of the Judgement was that “as soon as possible” means just that, that the notice should be given at the first opportunity the additional liability is incurred.

The second issue was whether the claimant should be granted relief from sanctions in relation to the principles in Denton v TH White Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 906

For reasons set out in the judgement, the Court of Appeal held that the three stage test in Denton meant that the claimant should not be granted relief from sanctions.

The key finding was that the NHS Trust had suffered significant prejudice as a result of the breach because it lost the opportunity of taking proactive steps towards investigating and resolving the potential claim over the two and a half year period during which additional liabilities were being incurred without their knowledge.

Whilst additional liabilities are being claimed few and far between following the 1st April 2013, it is imperative to note, particularly with Post LASPO ATE Premiums in Clinical Negligence Claims, mesothelioma cases, defamation and breach of privacy cases, that the Civil Procedure Rules are clear and the Courts are demonstrating limited patience with parties failing to comply.

Helen Appleby