High Court Analyzes Standing to Sue, Nuisance, and Procedural Errors in Pincus v Johal Case

Citation: [2024] EWHC 502 (Ch)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the High Court of Justice case of Stephen Pincus v Sandeep Singh Johal & Anor ([2024] EWHC 502 (Ch)), presided over by HHJ Paul Matthews, several legal principles were scrutinized, particularly in relation to easements, standing to sue, the concept of nuisance, and the procedural aspects of obtaining default judgments. This article aims to dissect the key elements and legal principles in play, providing clarity on the court’s reasoning and its application to the case at hand.

Key Facts

The claimant, Stephen Pincus, holds a right of way to a concrete platform adjacent to his commercial property, which the defendants have allegedly wrongfully interfered with, thus obstructing his access. The claim held that the defendants demolished part of the platform, disabling the claimant’s tenant from using the previously provided route for fork-lift truck access.

HHJ Paul Matthews evaluated whether the claimant had abandoned his claim for an injunction after securing default judgments, emphasizing the importance of understanding abandonment in contractual terms, as well as the procedural processes regarding rule 12.4 and 13.6 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

Standing to Sue

One of the pivotal principles was whether the claimant had the standing to sue for nuisance despite not physically possessing the land, given it was under a tenant’s lease. The court found that the claimant, as the reversioner with an interest in the land, could sue for a “permanent” nuisance, potentially impacting the reversionary value, hinging on the principles that even a non-possessory proprietor may sue for infringement of an easement.

Nuisance and Interference with Right of Way

The legal threshold for actionable nuisance was established to be based on substantial interference preventing the right of way from being “substantially and practically exercised as conveniently after as before” any damage or obstruction, citing B & Q plc v Liverpool & Lancashire Properties Ltd and West v Sharp. The presence of a protruding manhole cover constituted a substantial interference owing to its deviation from the status quo and creation of a trip hazard, affirming the claimant’s argument.

Abandonment and Procedural Errors

The pivotal issue was whether the claimant abandoned the non-monetary aspects of the claim, specifically the injunction, by penning a letter dated 14 February 2023. The rules prescribe that where a claimant pursues other remedies, an application under Part 23 CPR is required unless they are abandoned. The claimant’s solicitor’s letter, stating abandonment of all “non-monetary aspects” of the claim, was read by the court to include the injunction. The court concluded that the letter was an effective abandonment, reinforced by procedural compliance with the CPR, as elucidated in Robins v Kordowski.

The court also discussed the corrigendum brought by CPR rule 3.10, denoting the court’s ability to correct errors of procedure. However, the judge differentiated between a procedural error and a mistake in drafting that carried substantive legal outcomes, deeming the latter unsuitable for correction under rule 3.10.

Outcomes

As a result of the solicitor’s letter that accompanied the request for default judgment, which was wrongly perceived as encompassing the injunction when read in context with the procedural rules under the CPR, the court deemed that the claimant had abandoned the claim for injunctive relief. Therefore, the application for an order to permit reinstate works to the platform was dismissed.

Conclusion

In Stephen Pincus v Sandeep Singh Johal & Anor, the court navigated complex realms of the standing to sue, the nature of nuisance as it pertains to property rights, and precise adherence to civil procedural rules. The case delineates the intricate balance between procedural formality and substantive legal objectives within contract law and property disputes. It serves as a cautionary tale for legal professionals about the precision required in pleadings and the potential fallout from procedural missteps.

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