Part 36 Offer – Withdrawal
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High Court, Queen’s Bench
Mr Justice Leggatt
8 October 2014
In the interest of natural justice the High Court set
aside an order that had permitted the defendant to withdraw their Part 36 offer
before the 21 day time limit was up, where that order had been obtained by an ex
parte application and the supporting evidence had never been disclosed to the claimant.
The defendant admitted negligence in their treatment of
the claimant but disputed causation. The defendant made a Part 36 offer to settle
the claim for £325,000. Under CPR 36, this offer only be withdrawn within 21 days
of the date it was made with the court’s permission. On the 20th day the defendant
served a notice of withdrawal of the offer on the claimant. The claimant then served
a notice of acceptance of the offer. The effectiveness of the defendant’s withdrawal
depended on whether the court subsequently gave permission to withdraw the offer.
After not receiving payment, the claimant applied for
judgment. Unbeknownst to the claimant, the defendant had already made an ex parte
application asking for permission to withdraw their offer and had been given permission
to withdraw their offer without serving their application or supporting evidence
on the claimant. The claimant subsequently made an application to set aside this
order and also sought an order for a copy of the defendant’s application.
At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Leggatt was asked by the defendant
to consider material without disclosing it to the claimant. This was refused as
the requirements of natural justice in civil proceedings (helpfully summarised in
the judgment) meant that the court could not refuse the claimant’s application to
set aside the order without permitting the claimant to see the evidence relied
on. The defendant therefore instead asked for an adjournment for 3 months.