Friday, 3 April 2020

COVID-19: More Time For Order Compliance: England & Wales


The order says that unless you put in a defence/supply further information/pay a court fee/hand over specified documents/send the other side your witness statements etc etc etc, something terrible will happen like judgment will be given against you, your claim will be thrown out or you will be compelled to read Breaking Law from cover to cover.

If you had wanted more time to comply it was possible for an agreement between you and your opponent to be reached in writing allowing up to an extra 28 days so long as that extra time did not imperil an upcoming hearing. After all, no point in giving you an extra 28 days when the trial of the case was due to take place seven days after the agreement. This was all set out in rule 3.8 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (essential reading after 11pm). 

Yesterday, an emergency and temporary change was made on account of the coronavirus epidemic by the swingingly entitled Practice Direction 51ZA which increases the 28 days to 56 days and also applies to more time for compliance with what is provided for by a procedural rule or a Practice Direction as opposed to an order.   You still need consent of the other side to the extension. If more than 56 days are needed, even if the other side agrees to it, you must apply to the court for permission for that de luxe extension. And if the other side refuses to agree to you having any or sufficient extra time, you will have to apply for the extra time to the court. The application will be considered on paper, without a face to face or even a remote hearing. Should the application be refused on paper, you can apply for what is effectively a reconsideration. 

If you are already out of time to comply then you can apply to the court to be excused by asking for what is called ' relief from sanctions'.

The Practice Direction makes clear that on any application for more time or for relief from sanctions, the court will take into account the impact of the virus. It runs until 30 October 2020.

The time limits for starting court proceedings cannot generally be extended by agreement and still apply.