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Morris & Ors v. Williams & Co (Solicitors) [2024]

Simon Johnson victorious in Court of Appeal case on meaning of CPR 7.3 and 19.1: Morris & Ors v. Williams & Co (Solicitors). 

Today the Court of Appeal (the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Lewison and Lady Justice Falk) handed down judgment in Morris & Ors v. Williams & Co (Solicitors).  The court dismissed the respondent’s appeal from the order of HHJ Jarman KC and permitted Simon’s 134 clients to use a single claim form to advance their claims for negligence against their former solicitors.

The Court of Appeal held that the test of “convenient disposal” under CPR 7.3 developed by the Divisional Court in Abbott & Ors v. Ministry of Defence [2023] EWHC 1475 (KB), [2023] 1 WLR 4002 is incorrect in law. The Court of Appeal enunciated the meaning of the relevant rules by reference to background concepts drawn from the corresponding Rules of the Supreme Court, which do not appear to have been cited in Abbott v MoD.

In brief, CPR 7.3 and 19.1 require it to be established that it is convenient that claims be determined in a single set of proceedings. This will include circumstances where a single writ could have been used under the RSC (i.e. where the claims raise common questions of law or fact and arise out of the same transaction or series of transactions), and cases where the court’s judgment on the common issues would be binding across the board.  But neither is a requirement of the CPR.  The court must apply the straightforward concept of convenience to the facts of the case before it.  The rules do not require a gloss.

The Court of Appeal did not cast doubt on the correctness of the result in Abbott v MoD or the potential relevance of the factors considered in the Divisional Court’s judgment.  Abbott v. MoD was not before it.

The Court of Appeal’s judgment provides welcome clarification of an issue of universal importance in civil litigation.

A further update will follow in due course together with a seminar, where Simon will explain the Court of Appeal’s decision in detail.

Simon was leading counsel for the respondents, with Jennifer Meech as his junior,  instructed by Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP.