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Goode v Martin CA

14 January 2002
The issues

Limitation – amendment to plead new facts out of time – Human Rights Act.

The facts

The Claimant suffered a catastrophic head injury when yachting on 24th August 1996. As a result she had complete amnesia as to the circumstances of the accident. When eventually the claim was issued, she pleaded 7 allegations of negligence all relating to the condition of the “car” which it was thought had come free of the guide rail. About the pre-issue period the Defendants had failed to respond to correspondence from the Claimant. The Defence when served was “curt in the extreme”. In January 1998, two months after the Defence, a draft Amended Defence was sent pleading for the first time the Defendant’s account of how the accident had happened. The facts pleaded were different to those relied upon by the Claimant. The Defendant was given leave to serve the Defence and the Claimant leave to amend. The Claimant failed to do so. In April 2000 new Solicitors for the Claimant served a draft amended Statement of Claim. This was now served outside of the limitation period.

Defendants objected to service on the grounds that Civil Procedure Rules 17.4 provided that where a period of limitation applied, the Court “may allow an amendment whose effect will be to add or substitute a new claim, but only if the new claim arises out of the same facts or substantially the same facts as the claim in respect of which the party applying for permission has already claimed a remedy in the proceedings”. The Master refused to allow the amendment as did the Judge.

The decision

1. The Civil Procedure Rules had imposed a duty/enabled the Courts to do justice. The Court had to give effect to the over-riding objective of dealing with cases justly when interpreting any Rule.

2. The Human Rights Act now obliged the Court to give effect to subordinate legislation insofar as it was possible to do so in a way which was compatible with convention rights. In particular, the Claimant must not be impeded in her right of access to a Court. Having regard to the wording of the Rule, the Court would probably have been obliged previously to dismiss the Appeal. However, the position was different after the 1998 Act. Otherwise the Court would have had to have adopted the restrictive view of the Rule as propounded by Respondent’s Counsel. The Court, relying on the Act and the House of Lords Decision in R -v- A (Lord Steyne’s comment that “it will sometimes be necessary to adopt an interpretation which linguistically may appear strained. The techniques to be used will not only involve the reading down of express language in a statute but also the implication of provisions”) would read in to the wording of Civil Procedure Rules 17.4 (ii) the additional words “are already in issue on” so that the Rule would now read for the purposes of this decision, “the Court may allow an amendment whose effect will be to add%u2026 a new claim, but only if the new claim arises out of the same facts or substantially the same facts as are already in issue on a claim in respect of which the party applying for permission has already claimed a remedy in the proceedings.

3. In this manner there would be no violation of Article 6 Rights

Appeal allowed.

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