Lawyers taken to task over ‘simply bewildering’ pleadings

Lawyers taken to task over 'simply bewildering' pleadings

A sheriff principal has expressed irritation with lawyers over “disorganised” and “simply bewildering” pleadings in a straightforward consumer claim.

The case concerned a vehicle to which, it was argued, a towbar had been improperly fitted. The respondent sought to reject the vehicle and claim repayment of the purchase price and other losses.

Sheriff Principal Anwar said of the respondent’s case in a postscript: “Her claim is a straightforward consumer claim, the likes of which are commonplace in the sheriff courts.

“Her claim is capable of being articulated and answered in a few brief paragraphs. Yet, the record in this action extends to 31 pages. The pleadings are disorganised
and simply bewildering. Simple matters, such as the use of a defined term for the vehicle appear to have been incapable of agreement: the respondent refers to the vehicle as ‘the car’ while the appellant refers to the vehicle as ‘the Used MIG Vehicle’.”

Counsel for the respondent said that lengthy pleadings with technical pleading points had become a feature of claims that involve the rejection of vehicles. Sheriff Principal Anwar said that if that is true, counsel should bear in mind Macphail’s Sheriff Court Practice (4th edition), where it states:

“Unsurprisingly, judicial exasperation is commonly expressed when the court is faced with poor pleadings. A regrettable practice of unnecessarily lengthy pleadings which obscure rather than clarify the issues has developed. Such practices are to be avoided.”

She concluded: “Parties should consider putting their pleadings in order by deleting unnecessary, superfluous averments prior to the proof before answer.”

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