The Importance of Complying with Court Orders: Workman (Appellant) v Forrester & Others (Respondent)  EWCA CIV 73April 3, 2017
The Court dealt with two appeals brought by the Appellant. The first appeal was against an Order of the High Court made in July 2014 wherein the Appellant’s previous appeal was dismissed in respect of an application to set aside Judgments made in February and December 2012 and January 2013. The effect of those orders (taken together) was the entry of a default Judgment against the Appellant in favour of the Respondents in the sum of approximately £1.5 million, plus interest and costs.
The issue on the first appeal was whether the Court had been entitled to make an “Unless Order” requiring the Appellant to comply with an earlier Order for disclosure of his assets, and in default of compliance debarring the Appellant from defending the quantum claim and directing Judgment to be entered for the specific sum above.
The second appeal relates to a freezing order but is not the subject matter of this article.
The case had an unusual background in that the Appellant was convicted of the murder of his wife of 35 years. The civil proceedings were brought by the Respondents who were the deceased’s sister and her two sons. Interestingly, one of the children of the marriage was helping the Appellant. At the time of the murder, the Appellant was engaged in on-going financial relief proceedings against the deceased following their divorce. A financial relief application was pending in the County Court at the date of the deceased’s death. The Respondent’s claim in this case was based on the tort committed by the Appellant upon the deceased in killing her and the common law rule of forfeiture which prevents a person criminally responsible for the death of another from benefiting by succession from the death brought about by their unlawful act. The Respondents claimed that the rule should apply, by analogy, to prevent the Appellant from avoiding what was the highly likely outcome of the impending financial relief proceedings prior to the death of the deceased.
The Court set out an overview of the salient features leading to the entry of Judgment for the fixed sum of approximately £1.5 million pursuant to the Unless Order made the previous month.
The Appellant argued that it was entitled to have the Unless Order set aside as it was irregular. The Judge conceded that the Appellant is right that in the normal course of events, following the entry of a Judgment for damages to be assessed, that the Plaintiff must prove the damage alleged and the Defendant is entitled to contest every issue that is not conclusively determined against him by the Judgment on liability.
However, the Judge was critical of the Appellant noting that there had been a persistent failure by him to comply with a Disclosure Order, noting that the Appellant’s flagrant attempt in failing to comply with the Court Order had the potential to frustrate the damages assessment and could not be ignored.
This Judgment demonstrates that, despite the general principal that a default Judgement on liability must still prove quantum, a Defendant who fails to comply with an earlier Court Order may forfeit the benefit of that protection, as well as the opportunity to participate in the quantification process.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.
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