Can a previous dispute be heard by the Court for a second time?

May 1, 2017

Any dispute which cannot be resolved amicably between parties is likely to require the involvement of legal assistance, and possibly an exploration of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) [in any of its forms]. In the event that the parties continue to disagree, the involvement of the Court is often required to make a determination.

The outcome of bringing such proceedings is likely to leave a ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ party, with the Court assessing each matter on the turn of its facts. This goes to illustrate that there is an inherent risk associated with litigation, with the outcome of formal proceedings being indeterminable in advance.

Any party who is unhappy with the Courts determination may wish to have the matter ‘reheard’ in hope that the Court reaches a more favourable decision. Such action is prevented by a well established principle of English law known as ‘res judicata’. This principle stipulates that, in circumstances where the Court has already made a determination of a particular dispute, then the matter cannot be re-opened unless by way of appeal.

A party is only granted the right to appeal a Court’s judgment where the appeal Court is satisfied that the decision made was ‘wrong’, or ‘unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings in the lower Court’. In an appeal, no new evidence can be adduced without the Court’s permission.

The appeal Court is unlikely to overturn a previous judgment where no real difference would be made to the outcome of the case, or the appeal would involve re-examining the factual investigation undertaken by the lower Court.

The Court’s reluctance to allow matters to be ‘reheard’ [in the absence of permission to appeal] stems from the aim to support the good administration of justice in preventing abusive and duplicate litigation. It is also considered to be in the public interest to not allow matters to be ‘re-litigated’, as it would cause substantial delays and undoubtedly overburden the Court. It is further seen as unjust for a person to be vexed twice with litigation on the same subject matter.

There are limited exceptions to the above legal principle, however each matter is determined on its individual circumstances.

For any queries relating to appeals, or bringing and defending proceedings, please contact our Advisory and Dispute Resolution department on 0330 024 9643.

Josh Clarke
Trainee Solicitor
Advisory and Dispute Resolution

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