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Blue v Ashley - when can a defendant rely on expert evidence?

11 April 2017

The case of Blue v Ashley [2017] concerned the defendant, the founder of Sports Direct, who had promised to pay an investment banker £15m if he could double the clothing chain’s share price in three years from £4 to £8. The claimant’s case was that he had deployed his skills and contacts so that the company’s share price had risen and that therefore he was entitled to the sum of £15m. The defendant's case was that if such an agreement existed, there was an implied term that the claimant would have to prove that it was his actions that had affected the increase in share price. In this case the court was asked to look at what was needed to evidence whether the claimant’s actions had affected the share price. Late in the proceedings, in February 2017, the defendant indicated for the first time that he was considering relying on expert evidence regarding equity markets.

The court found that the defendant was not permitted to rely on the suggested expert evidence concerning the reasons why a company’s share price had risen. Much of the evidence contained uncontroversial information, it was only of marginal relevance, and it would be disproportionate to admit it when the trial was due to start in three months

This case illustrates that a defendant cannot rely to permit expert evidence at such a late stage, as this would impose a considerable burden on the claimant to respond to it and would be disproportionate, since it might give rise to new factual issues which had not been addressed in the evidence. Further, the court has to assess whether the purported expert evidence was truly expert evidence and whether it would assist the court in determining the issues in the case. 

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