Court of Appeal
The Issues: The Claimant had suffered catastrophic injuries following an accident on the defendant’s property. Before the issue of multi-track proceedings, the Defendant had admitted liability in an open letter, but subsequently withdrew the admission following the issuing of proceedings. The Claimant wanted to rely on the pre-action admission of liability and thereby strike out parts of the defence. The previous rules (RSC O.27 r.3 – by that time superseded) governed both pre action and post action admissions. Did r.14.1 (current in 2005) do the same?
Held: There was provision under the CPR regime for pre-action activity in the form of pre-action protocols and pre-action disclosure, but the CPR are principally concerned with the regulation of cases after proceedings have been issued. The CPR had been carefully drafted and there seemed no intention that a pre-action admission of liability would be included in the wording of CPR 14.1(1). A party's case was not formally set down until the claim form or particulars of claim were prepared, and a person did not ordinarily become a party until legal proceedings had been issued. Furthermore the presumption in the Personal Injury Pre-Action Protocol that a pre-action admission was binding, was not intended to apply to multi-track claims. There was express recognition in para 2.9 of the Protocol that letters of claim and responses were not intended to have the same status as a statement of case in proceedings.
Comment: The CPR were amended in the 44 th update (r.14.1A) so that where a pre-action admission is made after 6 April 2007, and after receipt of a letter of claim in accordance with the personal injury pre-action protocol, this admission can only be withdrawn:
Paragraph 1.1(2) of the relevant Practice Direction states that although the personal injury pre-action protocol is “primarily designed” for those claims of less than £15,000, the protocol applies generally to all personal injury claims. It therefore seems that r.14.1A applies to both fast and multi-track claims.
The decision in Sowerby is therefore unlikely to affect any pre-action admission made after 6 April 2007, but will continue to be applicable to an admission made before this date.