Judge: Peter Blair QC
Citation:  EWHC 480 (QB)
A Part 36 offer was valid despite de minimis non-compliance with the rules, and had been accepted. However given that it was not realistic to hold that the Claimant could have evaluated the offer before receipt of expert evidence, the window for acceptance was varied.
A former soldier who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder claimed damages from the Ministry of Defence. The Defendant made a Part 36 offer which was not accepted within the 21 day relevant period. The offer was not withdrawn. The Claimant made it clear that without further information he could not properly consider the offer made. Some three months later, a Joint Expert Report was received which clarified matters. The Claimant changed his solicitors and, three months after the Joint Experts Report, the Claimant accepted the Defendant’s Part 36 offer. Three days later the Claimant changed his mind and instructed his solicitor to cancel his acceptance of the offer, since he was unhappy with the settlement figure and felt under duress. The trial date had already been vacated. The Defendant sought its costs from the expiry of the relevant period until the Notice of Acceptance. The Court held that the offer had been accepted and that Part 36 applied. The Court was required to order the Defendant to pay the Claimant’s costs until the expiration of the relevant period unless it was unjust to do so, pursuant to Rule 36.17(5). The Joint Experts’ Report was of great significance in resolving the different positions concerning quantification of the Claimant’s loss. It was not realistic to hold that the offer could have been evaluated within the relevant period before the Experts’ Report had been received, allowing the Claimant a reasonable period to evaluate the claim after receipt of the report, the window for acceptance was extended until 21 days after the Experts’ Report had been received. Thereafter, the Claimant was ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs until the date of acceptance.