Law firm secures restraint order against litigant in person

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12 February 2015


RCJ

Newey J: Claims “corresponded closely” to those already rejected

Surrey law firm Downs has secured a civil restraint order against a litigant in person who launched a series of claims described by a High Court judge as “totally without merit”.

Mr Justice Newey said that among the claims made by Joseph Garnham were conspiracy to defraud, perjury and perverting the course of justice, and a claim for £1.38m in “monetary relief”.

Newey J said that, under CPR 3.11, courts can grant an extended civil restraint orders where a party has “persistently issued claims or made applications which are totally without merit”.

He said ‘persistently’ required there to be at least two claims without merit. The judge said that not only was Mr Garnham’s latest application “totally without merit”, but he had previously issued “at least five claims or applications that were totally without merit”.

The High Court heard in Garnham v Millar and others [2015] EWHC 274(Ch) that the claims could be traced back to a probate dispute, which was the subject of a mediation in 2010.

Newey J said that “within a matter of weeks after the mediation” Mr Garnham was expressing dissatisfaction with the mediation settlement. He issued an application to set aside the related Tomlin order, but this was dismissed by the High Court in 2011.

However, the court heard that in January 2012 Mr Garnham issued new proceedings against a deceased woman and the executors of her estate, one of whom was a partner at Downs.

Newey J said that allegations of “conspiracy to defraud, perjury, perverting the course of justice, duress, deceit, breach of the Civil Procedure Rules, breach of the Solicitors Regulation Authority code of conduct and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998” were put forward.

The defendants applied for the claims to be struck out, or alternatively for summary judgment. Mrs Justice Proudman ruled in their favour and permission to appeal was refused.

Newey J said the latest proceedings were issued in March 2014, and the “monetary relief” claimed was £1,378,7331.10.

Striking out the claims, Newey J said they corresponded very closely to “that already rejected by Mrs Justice Proudman”. He said the latest proceedings represented an “abuse of the court’s process”.

The judge said that “on any view” they involved a “reply of matters which Mr Garnham has already lost”. He ordered them to be struck out and said he considered them, for CPR purposes, to be “totally without merit”.

Looking back at the 2012 claims, Newey J said “at least five claims or applications” were totally without merit and Mr Garnham “refused ‘to take no for an answer’”.

On these grounds he said it was appropriate to grant an extended civil restraint order against the claimant for two years.

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What are our considerations when looking to buy home or car cover? I would imagine price would certainly be amongst the considerations, but I’m confident that we would each weigh up whether or not our chosen insurer could meet any claims we might bring, and perhaps as importantly, whether they’d provide us with a hassle-free claims process were the worst to happen. Legal expenses insurance should be no different.

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