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Court considers impact of Wyatt v Vince on the limits of strike out

Strike out application dismissed in Inheritance Act case

Mr Justice Mostyn has applied the judgment of Lord Wilson in Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14 in respect of strike out under FPR r4.4(1) directly to the Civil Procedure Rules, ruling that 'real prospect of success' has a limited meaning under the strike out rule in CPR r3.4(2)(a), and is restricted to 'a claim which is legally unrecognisable'. He held that 'serious arguments about real prospects of success' should be reserved for summary judgment applications.

The judgment in Dellal v Dellal [2015] EWHC 907 (Fam) concerned an application for strike out and/or summary judgment in relation to an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claim.

The claim was brought by the second wife of Jack Dellal, the 'legendary property dealer'. In a will dated 15 November 2006, Mr Dellal effectively left his entire estate to his second wife.  In 2012, the Sunday Times Rich List had stated he was worth £445m. The disclosed assets of his estate on his death in October 2012 were only £15.4m. The applicant contended that Mr Dellal had made dispositions to his children from previous relationships with the intention of defeating an application for provision under the Act. She therefore made the claim against Mr Dellal's deemed 'net estate' under sections 2, 10 and 13 of the Act.

The defendants were applying for strike out and summary judgment.

In relation to strike out, the judge ruled that, ahead of disclosure, a claimant can plead a case in a 'laconic or protean' way in anticipation of further evidence, and that this does not make a claim legally unrecognisable. Further, at an early stage in proceedings, it is permissible to proceed with a claim on different factual bases, even if these are pleaded in different jurisdictions (there were parallel proceedings in Switzerland which the Seventh Defendant argued were pleaded on an inconsistent basis).

Despite limited evidence provided by the claimant, Mostyn J found that the case was not 'a merely speculative punt'. The judge further held that determinations on summary judgment should be made on an informed basis. The summary judgment application was therefore adjourned with liberty to restore, and specific disclosure was ordered pursuant to CPR r31.12.

Further, although the applicant's significant personal wealth made it improbable that she would receive an award under the Act, this was not sufficient to make her claim hopeless.

For the judgment and a fuller summary by Samuel Littlejohns, pupil, 1 Hare Court, form which this item is derived, please click here.

12/4/15