Case Study: The Court’s Ability to Strike Out a Statement of Case Under CPR 3.4
We were recently asked to defend a vexatious application to strike out our client’s statement of case under CPR 3.4.
The circumstances in which the application was to strike out our statement of case was made was as follows:
We had been successful in obtaining a Tribunal award in our client’s favour at the Central London Employment Tribunal. When the sum due pursuant to the award was not paid by the due date, we made an application to the Respondent’s local County Court (in this case West London County Court) for a standard application, using for N322 to register the Employment Tribunal award as a County Court Judgment in order that it could then be enforced through a County Court system.
This is a standard first step to take when enforcing Employment Tribunal judgments and we filled out the Court’s standard form in order to move things to the next stage.
The Respondent, possibly as a delaying tactic or possibly because he was very badly advised by a legal adviser, made a spurious application to the West London County Court to have the Court Order set aside on the apparent basis that because our client was described as an “applicant” on the Court’s standard form N322a, as a consequence of this description, she was unable to become a “Judgement Creditor”. The applicant was also making the application to have the statement of case struck out because he was appealing the original Employment Tribunal decision to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
His application was made under CPR 3.4(2)(a)-(b) which states as follows:
“(2) The court may strike out(GL) a statement of case if it appears to the court –
a. that the statement of case discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending the claim;
b. that the statement of case is an abuse of the court’s process or is otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings”;
We successfully argued that it was, in fact, the Claimant’s application which was a total abuse of process and the Court agreed with us.
We also relied on the wording of CPR 70.1 in order to defeat the ridiculous argument advance which states as follows:
a. ‘judgment creditor’ means a person who has obtained or is entitled to enforce a judgment or order;
b. ‘judgment debtor’ means a person against whom a judgment or order was given or made;
c. ‘judgment or order’ includes an award which the court has –
i. registered for enforcement;
ii. ordered to be enforced; or
Not surprisingly the Judge dismissed the application and described it as totally lacking in merit and also awarded costs in our client’s favour.
The Judge did indicate to the applicant, who had lost his case, that it was open to him to apply for a stay of execution of the Employment Tribunal award which, as a layman, the applicant was unaware of and perhaps, this is something he should have considered initially, rather than making the failed application. Had he done so, this is certainly something we would have considered acceding to and had this course of action been chosen by the Respondent, then the attendance at a Court hearing could have been avoided as could the costs incurred.
This unfortunate case demonstrates that there are dangers associated with simply making unmeritorious applications which have not been properly considered by solicitors as serious cost consequences can flow from such an abuse of the Court’s resources.