TSP Group Ltd v Globemark (UK) Ltd & Undersheriff of Cheshire (2005)
A judge had been wrong to proceed to summarily determine a claim at a hearing that had been ordered to be a directions hearing.
The appellant company (T) appealed against a decision to summarily dismiss its claim to certain goods against the first respondent (G). T was the interpleader claimant in proceedings commenced by application of the second respondent undersheriff. G had initially brought a claim for goods against a company. That claim had concerned the goods that were the subject of the instant appeal. At an interpleader hearing it was found that there had been several errors and confusions in the conduct of the proceedings up to that point, in particular regarding a statement that had been filed in support of T's case in purported compliance with RSC Order 17 r.3(6). The judge ordered T to file and serve a new statement pursuant to RSC Order 17 r.3(6) and a directions hearing was listed for a specified date, subject to T complying with the order to file and serve a statement. At the directions hearing the judge had proceeded to summarily determine the issue raised by T and dismissed the claim. The judge had commented that T's statement had been its opportunity to put before the court all the evidence upon which it intended to rely in support of its claim, and concluded that that had not been done and that there was no other evidence in support of T's claim. T submitted that the judge had been wrong to deal with its claim summarily and that his doing so had been a serious procedural irregularity, which had caused the outcome to be unjust. The purpose of the hearing was for directions to be given. T had been unable to adduce evidence in support of his claim on the day and had thus been at an unfair disadvantage.
The civil courts had to reassess their procedures and attitudes to the administration of civil justice in light of the changes introduced by the CPR. However, that reassessment had to have in mind the overriding objective that cases had to be dealt with justly. The parties had appeared at the hearing expecting to be given directions. Prior to the hearing there had been no suggestion that T's statement was not compliant with RSC Order 17 r.3(6) and in fact the tenor of the earlier hearing was that the statement was compliant with that Order. The judge should have proceeded on the basis that it was a directions hearing. His failure to do so and his decision to determine the claim summarily was wrong and resulted in his making a finding that may have been factually incorrect, in a hearing in which T had been denied the opportunity to rely on evidence that may have been available to it.