Home Information Cases Loughridge v Financial Times Ltd (2013)

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Loughridge v Financial Times Ltd (2013)

Summary

A court heard that it was unfair and unjust to order a split trial in a breach of contract claim where the party seeking the order had failed to satisfy the court that it was appropriate to do so. However, an application to adjourn a trial date was granted so that all of the issues could be heard together.

Facts

The applicant (L) applied for an order for a split trial in an action for breach of contract. The respondent (F) applied to adjourn the trial so that it could be heard in full.

L had incorporated a company (X) which had entered into an agreement with F to broadcast conferences on the internet. X was subsequently dissolved and L alleged that he was the assignee of any causes of action that X had. L argued that F, at an earlier date, had wrongfully repudiated the agreement with X. F challenged the effectiveness of the assignment and the identity of the person with whom the agreement had been made with. A ten-day trial had been listed for March 2014. However, both parties were in agreement that due to further disclosure issues and F's amended defence and counter-claim it was unlikely that the parties would be ready for a trial of all the issues by then.

L submitted that it was appropriate to hear issues of liability in March but that issues of quantum should be heard at a later date as it could save court time and a significant amount of expense. F submitted that it was fair, just and reasonable for the trial to be adjourned so that a trial of all the issues together could take place.

Held

When directing whether to order a split trial the starting point was that a trial was a trial of all the issues. Consequently, the party wanting to split trial dates had to satisfy the court that it was appropriate to do so. The court had to be cautious in directing a different type of trial. Each case was different and in some situations it might be appropriate to separate the issues of liability and quantum. In the instant case, the parties would want to cross examine each other's witnesses. F had pointed out that the way that the claim for damages was set out, it might be prevented from asking questions related to quantum at the first trial, and subsequently find that L had not called the relevant witnesses at the quantum trial. It was true that if the trial proceeded on issues of liability only and L lost and did not appeal, then time and money could be saved. However, bearing in mind that the claim form was issued a long time after the alleged breaches happened, and L had already spent substantial sums of money, it was almost inevitable that if he was unsuccessful he would seek to appeal, and it was unrealistic not to recognise that permission to appeal might be granted. If it was granted, and L was successful, then the trial of issues as to quantum would be heard substantially later again. Further, bearing in mind that the damages claimed were over £25m, if F was unsuccessful at the trial of liability it was highly likely that F would apply for permission to appeal. If that was granted, there would then be a two-track piece of litigation, with one track in the Court of Appeal and a separate trial at first instance on the matter of quantum. Bearing in mind all the matters identified, it was unfair and unjust to follow the course of a split trial. However, F's application to adjourn succeeded.

Claimant's application refused, defendant's application granted

High Court
Judge Seymour QC
Judgment date
12 February 2013
References

LTL 3/12/2013; [2013] EWHC 4415 (QB)