Robert Tchenguiz & Ors v Serious Fraud Office & Ors (Oct 2014)
The rules requiring concision in skeleton arguments in the Court of Appeal existed to enable the court to deal with its business in a timely and efficient manner. There was no exception to the rules for commercial litigation: it was just as important to put one's argument concisely in complex commercial cases as in any other kind of case.
The appellant (T) applied for permission to rely on a supplementary skeleton argument in his appeal against a decision of the Commercial Court.
(1) CPR PD 52A para.5 and PD 52C para.31, the rules governing skeleton arguments for use in the Court of Appeal, existed to enable the court to deal with its business in a timely and efficient manner. There had been substantial non-compliance on T's part. Although a skeleton should not normally exceed 25 pages, his initial skeleton had run to 47 pages and he sought to serve a supplementary skeleton of 34 pages, with a 15-page appendix. There was substantial overlap between the two skeletons. All the points dealt with in the supplementary skeleton were perfectly foreseeable. Insofar as they departed from the original, they should have been dealt with at the outset. If T had considered that the original skeleton on which he had obtained permission to appeal was defective, the sensible course would have been to prepare a substitute skeleton which complied with the rules and provide the court and other parties with that as soon as practicable after the grant of permission. Instead, T had served a lengthy supplementary skeleton one week before the hearing. However, there was material in certain paragraphs of the supplementary which should be retained and which should preferably have been included in the original skeleton. T would be permitted to rely upon those paragraphs, but not the rest of the document. (2) The rules applied to all classes of litigation; there was no exception for commercial litigation. It was just as important to put one's argument concisely in complex commercial or Chancery cases as in any other kind of case. Length obscured the points which were germane to the resolution of an appeal, rather than assisting in their determination. (3) In view of the non-compliance with the rules, T would not be permitted to recover his costs of either skeleton, whatever the outcome of the appeal.
Application granted in part
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13 Oct 2014
Court of Appeal
Jackson LJ, Sharp LJ, Vos LJ
LTL 15/10/2014 :  EWCA Civ 1333
Catherine Newman QC