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Post Jackson extensions

Unfortunately, this cannot be said of some defendant firms who appear to be quite happy to throw the ‘tough, make an application to the court' card on to the table.

Agreeing to extensions gives the defendant solicitor chance to get to grips with the file rather than dashing off a hastily drafted defence which doesn't have the required information or is subject to amendment later.

As far as extensions for compliance with directions are concerned, the whole balance has shifted. The position has always been that if you don't exchange witness statements on time then you're automatically debarred and need to apply for relief – it's not in the gift of the other party to agree to postpone. However, the courts have always expected parties to co-operate and until now, if the parties agreed an extension, provided it didn't interfere with the overall timetable, then the court had no real interest.

It appears  that the Jackson reforms take us away from the culture of co-operation engendered by Woolf, as parties can achieve victories by sitting back and letting the court play the big bad wolf – not what Jackson was planning but that's the `law of unintended consequences' in action.

It is likely that a body of case law and practice directions will develop to enable us to plan and anticipate the appropriate steps we should be taking where we can't comply with court timetables, but until then we're very much hostage to fortune, and probably to judges' caprices.

The moral being – as far as possible, comply with your directions.  


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