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Short shrift for party litigant in Scotland

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17/07/2018

The Court of Session in Scotland has followed the example of the Supreme Court, giving short shrift to a party litigant (or, ‘litigant in person’ in England and Wales) in his legal proceedings against his bank. Walker Morris’ Banking & Finance Litigation partner Louise Power explains.

Background

In Mohammed Aslam v Royal Bank of Scotland [1] the applicant, a party litigant, was the owner and landlord of a number of rental properties in Glasgow.  He wished to sue his bank after it exercised its rights under standard securities and sold 27 of his properties.  The applicant’s initial claim against the bank was dismissed as “irrelevant” by Sheriff Deutsch of the Glasgow Sheriff Court in July 2017. The applicant then appealed to the Sheriff Appeal Court and an accelerated appeal hearing was fixed for 18 January 2018.

The applicant’s note of appeal was lodged in November 2017. However, without notice at the hearing, the applicant then produced a Minute of Amendment, seeking to amend his pleadings. He apologised for not intimating the minute sooner, referring to the absence of his ‘Mackenzie friend’ and the intervention of the festive season. The bank opposed the amendments, describing them as “too late” and in any event “failing to cure the defects” in the pleadings. The Appeal Sheriff, agreed with the bank and ultimately refused the appeal.

Present Case

Finally, in the present case, the applicant applied to the Court of Session for permission to appeal. He claimed that his appeal raised an “important point of principle”, namely the question of what constitutes adequate notice of an appeal hearing, both generally and in the case of an unrepresented party litigant with no legal qualifications. He also reiterated that the “important and lengthy holiday period” of Christmas and New Year intervened between hearings.

The applicant argued that the Sheriff had “erred in applying an unduly strict standard” when he dismissed the appeal as irrelevant and lacking in specification; and that he ought to be able to amend and clarify his pleadings.

Decision and WM Comment

In a decision that will be welcomed by lenders facing spurious claims or vexatious litigation involving party litigants in Scotland, Lady Paton refused the applicant’s appeal. She stated that the applicant had had two months to prepare for the hearing, which was ample regardless of the intervention of Christmas and New Year. Referencing the UK Supreme Court in Barton v Wright Hassall LLP [2], Lady Paton emphasised that party litigants and their Mackenzie friends must comply with the rules of the court and its administration in the same way as any other party.

Lady Paton also helpfully stated that it is standard practice for a claim to be dismissed where it has been found to be irrelevant and lacking in specification. She believed that it would be a waste of court time and resources to permit the claim to go to a proof before answer involving witnesses, etc.

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[1] [2018] CSIH 47
[2] [2018] 1 WLR 1119 and see Walker Morris’ briefing on the case

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