During the life of a Court dispute, it is often the case that parties will be asked to grant an extension or will be seeking an extension of time to take a particular step.
What should you do?
Should you always roll over and grant extensions, or should they always be refused? The key question to weigh up is what would a Court decide if an application is brought before it? It is usually the case that both sides will maintain that the attitude of the other is unreasonable and unrealistic. The party seeking the extension would always cite that granting an extension would satisfy the “overriding objective” (that proceedings should be dealt with justly and at proportionate cost). There are of course differences between a request for a short extension and longer extensions but, for the purposes of this article, we are only considering short extensions.
There can be many reasons or circumstances which can arise where a party may require a modest extension of time.
The parties are not necessarily in breach of any duty to their client if they are to agree a reasonable extension of time, which of course does not put at risk future hearing dates or disrupt the future conduct of the litigation. Where contested Court applications can be avoided by agreeing short extensions, it would be argued that the parties were themselves furthering the “overriding objective” by minimising costs rather than increasing costs disproportionately. Parties that seek to take tactical advantage by refusing a reasonable request for an extension of time are likely to be viewed unfavourably by the Court and may find themselves penalised with an adverse Costs Order.
On the other hand, depending on the facts of the specific case, the circumstances may be such that there are clearly good reasons to reject a request for an extension.
No party is obliged to grant an extension just because the other side request it, but careful consideration should be given before making a decision to refuse a request for an extension. If a request for an extension that would not cause any prejudice to either party is refused, the Court is likely to view that refusal is unreasonable and costs sanctions might follow for the refusing party. If the natural reaction of one’s client is simply to refuse to grant any extension whatsoever, the cost risk and implications of such refusals should be fully explained.
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