COVID-19 Case Law Update
Almost four weeks ago now the UK Government put in place a strict lockdown and social distancing strategy in order to tackle the spread of COVID-19, with the proposed deadline for reviewing, and possibly lifting some of the restrictions that had been put in place, now having been extended for at least another three weeks.
However, and despite the necessarily extreme lockdown and social distancing measures that remain in place across the UK, a recent decision in the matter of Re One Blackfriars Limited (in Liquidation)  EWHC 845 (Ch) makes it clear that where it is possible to do so safely, and the technology allows, the Courts of England and Wales remain determined not to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the Wheels of Justice from turning.
In this case, Mr Justice Kimbell QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, refused a party’s application to adjourn a five-week trial, that would involve four live witnesses, thirteen expert witnesses and was due to commence in June 2020, because he did not accept the argument that the adjournment was a necessary response to the restrictions introduced by the Government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, and after carefully considering sections 53-55 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and regulations 6 and 7 of the Coronavirus Regulations SI 350/2020, Mr Justice Kimbell QC noted that the legislature clearly “… expects the Courts to continue to function so far as they able to do safely by means of the increased use of technology to facilitate remote trials.”
Of course, any similar applications will turn on their own set of specific facts and circumstances, but for now the message from the Courts of England and Wales is loud and clear, being that COVID-19 is not reason enough on its own for listed trials or hearings to simply be adjourned indefinitely.
The above is accurate as at 17 April 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.
Lee Stafford is a Partner with the Dispute Resolution department. If you need advice or assistance on any of the issues mentioned in this article please contact Lee or another member of our expert Dispute Resolution team on 020 7631 4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org