17 March 2021 | Comment | Article by Sarah Bolt

Rochford v Rochford [2020] – defendant to 1975 Claim penalised for refusing to go to mediation

In the unreported case of Rochford v Rochford [2020], the Claimant was an adult (and only) child of the deceased.

Under the terms of her late father’s will, she was due to receive a legacy of £25,000. The residuary estate was valued at £193,000. The Claimant brought a claim under the Inheritance Act on the grounds that her late father’s will failed to make reasonable financial provision for her and she had an ongoing need for maintenance.

The claim was defended by the deceased’s sister. At an early stage, the Claimant proposed mediation, but this was refused by the defendant for various reasons, including that her claim was hopeless and insufficient disclosure about disclosure had been provided. This is despite the Claimant providing extensive disclosure of her financial position. The matter did not settle, and it was necessary for the parties to attend a two-day trial to resolve matters. At trial, the Court awarded the Claimant an additional award of £85,000 to that she had received under her father’s will. The Claimant had also beaten the offer made under Part 36 in August 2019. The Court therefore awarded:

  1. Costs on an indemnity basis (higher rate) from September 2019;
  2. An additional 10% on top of beating the offer;
  3. Interest of 5%; and
  4. An interim payment of £60,000 towards costs on the grounds that the costs should be assessed, if not agreed.

Overall, the Court was unimpressed with the Defendant’s views on disclosure and mediation. The Court indicated that mediation was appropriate for these types of matters, particularly where the estate was of low value. The Defendant was also able to take a view of the claim on the amount of disclosure required – this was not a matter where there were complex trusts or offshore accounts. The case provides a stark warning to defendants where they have pushed on to trial believing the strength of their claims, without considering the litigation risk or the need to make reasonable attempts to settle a claim.

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