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26 February 2024 | Comment | Article by Abigail Flanagan

Missed Deadlines, Costly Mistakes: Insights from the MacCallum Case

Case summary

Exploring the case of Robert MacCallum v Secretary of State for Education, shedding light on the consequences of missed court deadlines. It underscores the importance of diligence in meeting deadlines to avoid potential professional negligence claims as a legal professional.

Robert MacCallum v Secretary of State for Education, a teacher (“Mr MacCallam”) applied for an extension of time to file an appeal to an indefinite prohibition order which was imposed upon him by the Teaching Regulation Agency (“the TRA”).

Mr MacCallam received the Prohibition Notice on 15 November 2022. He believed he had until 15 December 2022 to appeal. Mr MacCallam instructed JMW Solicitors (“JMW”) to act on his behalf and to prepare and submit the appeal.

At all times, Mr MacCallam believed that he had until 15 December 2022 to file an appeal. At no point did JMW advise him differently. In fact, on 14 December 2022 JMW notified Mr MacCallam that the appeal had been lodged. However, on 15 August 2023 JMW contacted Mr MacCallam to explain that his appeal was likely out of time as it had not been filed within the relevant time period.

The decision

When the appeal was heard, the judge was very critical towards JMW commenting that the firm had ‘ample opportunity to file a valid appeal…’ The cause of the delay was that JMW were not familiar with the procedure to be adopted. They did not take the trouble to contact the court well in advance for guidance, and to research the relevant guides. They left it until the “last minute” to file the appeal, which then left them with insufficient time to correct their multiple mistakes in failing to prepare the appeal documentation correctly and failing to comply with the procedures for filing an appeal in the Administrative Court.

The Judge allowed the appeal citing the ‘exceptional circumstances’ in this case which would impair Mr MacCallam’s right of access to the court. This would be in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Judge said that there was no more that Mr MacCallam could have done, and the fact the appeal was lodged outside of the usual time limit was entirely the fault of JMW.

Critically, the judge confirmed that she would allow the appeal to be heard despite the fact that a potential professional negligence claim existed against JMW. The Judge made clear that in her view, any professional negligence claim allowing a monetary award in Mr MacCallam’s favour would not properly compensate him as, if the Appeal was not allowed, his employer had already confirmed that they could not continue to employ him for a further 5 years which would result in Mr MacCallam being unable to pursue his profession. Despite the appeal being allowed, this case highlights for lawyers the importance of meeting court deadlines and highlights the fact that missing court deadlines opens law firms up to potential very costly professional negligence claims.

Abigail Flanagan, Head of the Professional Negligence team comments,

“As legal practitioners, we must heed the lessons from cases like this. This case serves as a salutary lesson to practitioners about the perils of waiting until the last minute to file documents at court, and of the importance of ensuring you thoroughly understand the timescales and documentation that needs to be submitted to the courts well in advance of deadlines. Leaving things until the last minute is extremely risky in the event that the court rejects an application.”

Author bio

Abigail Flanagan joined the dispute resolution team in 2005 and became a Partner in May 2022. Abbie specialises in professional negligence claims (mainly against solicitors, accountancy practitioners and other finance professionals), general commercial litigation matters (including warranty, contractual and director/shareholder disputes) and insolvency matters.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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