The risks of DIY litigation

Posted: 13th May 2016

StressedLitigation is for lawyers and those who represent themselves operate under a distinct disadvantage. In one case which proved that point, a director who acted on behalf of his company in a professional negligence case was initially hit by a £2 million judgment because he was too stressed to attend court on the day of trial.

The director, who had taken on his company’s defence in person, presented a sick note from his GP to the effect that he was suffering from acute stress and was unfit to come to court. However, the judge was unimpressed and summarily struck out the company’s defence. Judgment was entered against the company for the full amount claimed and it was ordered to pay very substantial legal costs.

In upholding the company’s challenge to those orders, the Court of Appeal found that the approach adopted by the judge was too draconian. Noting the high value of the claim, and that the company’s defence had a reasonable prospect of success, the Court found that there was no sufficient basis for rejecting the GP’s evidence that there were sound medical reasons for the director’s non-attendance.

He might not have been so lucky on another day. Generally, courts are becoming less sympathetic to LIPs (litigants in person) simply because there are now so many and it is unfair on other parties to show undue leniency. Every case is different but beware of the false economy of DIY litigation and the risk of doing something that really needs expert help.

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