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You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> Mehta v Evans Dodd (A Firm of Solicitors) & Ors [2001] EWCA Civ 1693 (26 October 2001)
URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2001/1693.html
Cite as: [2001] EWCA Civ 1693

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Neutral Citation Number: [2001] EWCA Civ 1693
A2/2001/1257

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE
COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
(MR JUSTICE JACK AND MRS JUSTICE HALLETT)

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London WC2
Friday, 26th October 2001

B e f o r e :

LORD JUSTICE JONATHAN PARKER
-and-
MR JUSTICE BODEY

____________________

JAL MEHTA Claimant
- v -
1. EVANS DODD (A Firm of Solicitors)
2. BEVRIDGE ROSS & PREVEZER (A Firm of Solicitors)
3. BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT (A Firm of Solicitors)
4. BEACHCROFT WANSBROUGH (A Firm of Solicitors) Defendants
-and-
JAL MEHTA Claimant
-v-
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND Defendant

____________________

(Computer Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited
190 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2AG
Telephone No: 020 7421 4040
Fax No: 020 7831 8838
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

____________________

The Claimant appeared in person
The Defendants did not attend and were unrepresented

____________________

HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
____________________

Crown Copyright ©

    Friday, 26th October 2001

  1. LORD JUSTICE JONATHAN PARKER: I will ask Mr Justice Bodey to deliver the first judgment.
  2. MR JUSTICE BODEY: These are applications by the claimant, Mr Jal Mehta, who acts in person, for permission to appeal against an order of Jack J, dated 23rd May 2001, and against an order of Hallett J, dated 27th June 2001. There is also an application by the claimant that he be released from an undertaking which he gave in December 1999 (in circumstances which I shall mention at the end of this judgment) that he would not issue any further proceedings against the Royal Bank of Scotland.
  3. The underlying event which has led to these proceedings is that in May 1994 the claimant was unlawfully evicted from a room in a hotel in West London, which was then his home and in respect of which he was a contractual licensee.
  4. This eviction took place in shameful circumstances. It involved, just to give a flavour of the situation, the claimant's possessions being placed in the street in his absence, the lock to his room being changed and his being denied access to the hotel, even when he sought the help of the local authority and the police. This was done in order to ensure that a sale of the hotel with vacant possession due to be completed that day would not fall through.
  5. The litigation to which this event has given rise, all conducted by the claimant as litigant in person, has been as tortuous as it has been extensive. It must have taken up weeks of the lives of those who have been most intimately involved with it, including in particular, the claimant himself. The matter has been several times to the Court of Appeal.
  6. There is no doubt that the claimant took the eviction very badly and has suffered much. His desire to obtain what he sees as justice seems, judging by both the fact and the content of the copious documents, to have assumed a major significance in his life.
  7. As to the original mischief, any fair-minded person would have the greatest sympathy for the claimant, down to and including his securing proper recompense. The questions raised by these particular applications is whether or not the claimant's applications have now gone unacceptably over the top to the extent of being an abuse of the process and whether, as claimed by the defendants below, the court should call a halt.
  8. The claimant has now, in a number of different actions (I think this is the fifth) sued no less than eleven defendants, the identity and role of whom is to be found set out on page 1 of the judgment of Hallett J dated 27th June 2001 and need not be repeated here. I shall now set out a fraction of the litigation history.
  9. In a most sympathetic, careful and detailed judgment, dated 14th January 1999, Mr Richard Southwell QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, awarded the claimant statutory damages of 45,000 as against the owner of the hotel, a Mr Ramji, together with common-law damages (being compensatory aggravated and exemplary) totalling 27,500; these latter to be off-set against the statutory damages. In addition, he awarded common-law damages against a Receiver who had been appointed by the above bank as mortgagee, and against the Receiver's agent, in the sum of 27,500.
  10. Subsequently, the claimant accepted the sum of 40,000 from Mr Ramji. This meant, as later held by Mr Southwell, that (together with a sum of 6,500 received on a settlement with one of the directors of the company which purchased the hotel) the claimant had received a total of 46,500.
  11. The claimant issued further proceedings, this time against various lawyers who had been involved one way or another in the eviction process, alleging, in brief, that they concealed information, conspired together to induce a breach of his contractual licence and caused his wrongful eviction. That action was heard in July 2000 by Mr Southwell, who held that, in view of the damages already recovered by the claimant (as above) all his claims against any concurrent tortfeasors involved in the unlawful eviction had in fact been satisfied. He therefore struck out the claim.
  12. The claimant appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal which, on 19th December 2000, dismissed the appeal. Having referred to the cases of Heaton v Jameson, Mummery LJ held:
  13. "It appears... that there is no doubt that the effect of Mr Mehta accepting 40,000 from Mr Ramji was that that was complete satisfaction of the common-law damages which Mr Southwell had assessed under all three headings of compensatory aggravated and exemplary damages. That meant that there was no further claim by Mr Mehta for recovery of the sum of 27,500 either against Mr Nolan or Mr Adams or against any other persons who in subsequent legal proceedings he sought to make concurrently liable for torts in relation to his wrongful eviction from the Brompton Hotel on 6th May 1994."
  14. The Court of Appeal further dismissed the claimant's case that Mr Southwell should not have made a summary assessment of the Defendant's costs as against the claimant.
  15. In February 2001, the claimant issued the present proceedings against two of the firms of solicitors who had been defendants in the previous proceedings (above) together with a further two firms of solicitors who had acted for those solicitors in those proceedings. He sought to resurrect the point that the previous proceedings had been wrongly struck out in July 2000 (above) and that the costs orders against him had been wrongly made.
  16. At an interlocutory hearing on 23rd May 2001, Jack J dismissed all the claimant's interlocutory applications then before him, which were, for example (briefly) that the defendants' Defences should be struck out, that the lawyers involved should file affidavits disclosing their connections with Mr Southwell, and that the court should order that the previous proceedings had been wrongly struck out.
  17. At the same time, Jack J adjourned the defendants' applications for the claimant's claim to be struck out to a further hearing, namely that which in fact took place before Hallett J on 27th June 2001. He reserved to the Court of Appeal the claimant's application that he be released from his undertaking referred to further below not to pursue any proceedings against the Royal Bank of Scotland (the mortgagee of the hotel at the material time) arising from the eviction.
  18. At the hearing before Hallett J on 27th June 2001, she ordered that the action against all four defendants be struck out, holding that, absent any new evidence, the claim was an attempt to relitigate causes of action and issues which had already been effectively determined between the parties or their privies. It is clear from her very full judgment that she took a great deal of trouble over the case, setting out the considerable litigation history in detail, and paying regard to the abundance of allegations, assertions and claims being made by the claimant.
  19. Having done so, and having taken into account what she described as the claimant's "very serious allegations of dishonest concealment, and also of improperly influencing Mr Southwell", she held as follows:
  20. "These proceedings are simply yet another attempt to rake over old ground... The claimant has produced no new evidence, or evidence, at all before me to substantiate his present action or causes of action. He says repeatedly that the evidence is there to be seen on the documents and in his witness statement, but I cannot see it. I can find no new evidence, no new allegations. All the matters put before me by Mr Mehta in his lengthy submissions have been fully and fairly ventilated before previous tribunals. Despite my best endeavours, therefore, I find it impossible to ascertain any legal basis for Mr Mehta's present action. ... whether he likes it or not, as far as the law is concerned, his action for common law damages as a result of his eviction and the litigation flowing therefrom is now at an end. He has exhausted his avenues of appeal. He must accept it is the end of the road."
  21. Hallett J went on to describe the addition of the two further firms of solicitors as defendants to these proceedings as:
  22. "A device... to reclothe what is essentially the same cause of action."
  23. She declined to revisit the orders for costs in the previous proceedings. She concluded by saying:
  24. "The claim against each defendant discloses no new arguable cause of action, and I am entirely satisfied that they are an attempt to re-litigate issues already determined, and they are, therefore, an abuse of the process."
  25. Hallett J finally dealt with the defendants' application against the claimant for a Grepe v Loam type order. In this connection, she said:
  26. "I fear, having spent several hours listening to his [the claimant's] submissions and reading his written submissions, that Mr Mehta is now losing touch with reality. The litigation is over, but Mr Mehta cannot come to terms with that fact."
  27. She averted to the costs, which she described as being incurred every time the claimant comes to court, and describing them as now becoming "very substantial indeed", she said:
  28. "Mr Mehta has not complied with orders of the court to pay costs to these defendants to date. Either he will ruin himself, if he has not done so already, or the other parties will never see their money again. I am satisfied that he is no longer a reasonable and responsible litigant as far as the effects upon him of his unlawful eviction and this litigation are concerned. He cannot, or will not, accept decisions adverse to him, and he is prepared to make wild and unsupported complaints about professional men and women."
  29. She concluded:
  30. "Having seen the way in which Mr Mehta has conducted this hearing over the last two days, I am conscious of my responsibility to other litigants who wish their cases to be heard within a reasonable time."
  31. On this basis she made the requested order requiring the claimant to obtain the permission of the court before embarking on any further litigation arising, broadly, from his eviction. In other words, not a denial of access to the court, which would infringe the claimant's right under the Human Rights Act and Article 6 of the Convention; but the imposition of a filter, found by her to be justified by virtue of the litigation history and necessitated by the need to protect the rights and interests of others.
  32. By order 52 Rule 3.6 permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal will only be given where:
  33. "(a) the court considers that the appeal will have a real prospect of success, or
    (b) there is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard."
  34. Proceedings in the Court of Appeal are not just another bite of the cherry.
  35. Having considered the claimant's lengthy written and oral submissions there is, in my judgment, no realistic likelihood whatever that the Court of Appeal would be persuaded to interfere in any way with either of the two orders in question. They were both reached with care, and as a matter of judicial discretion, properly applied to facts which warranted the decisions reached.
  36. The fact (which the claimant sees as very important) that, having been served with the claimant's very lengthy and closely typed particulars of claim the defendants' solicitors in these proceedings referred in a time summons to "complex issues of law and fact", is neither here nor there when the specific issue has since been addressed by the court over two days. Nor can the claimant use these proceedings, as he would wish to do, as a vehicle for correcting his perceived grievances as regards costs orders made in the previous proceedings.
  37. Whilst it is manifestly correct to say, as the claimant has emphasised, that he is in principle entitled to a fair hearing (ie here to proceed to a full trial) this is not to be at the expense of defendants who would be put to all the stress and probably the financial costs of proceedings which, upon a full consideration of the competing arguments, the judge below reasonably found to have no merit at all.
  38. As to the Grepe v Loam type order the claimant is not denied future hearings. He simply has to show the court that there is proper justification before starting them off. Hallett J was in the best position to assess the justification for this particular order, having had the opportunity both to see and hear the claimant, and to observe the manner of his conducting his case over the course of a two-day hearing.
  39. Having properly reminded herself of the seriousness of such an order, she entertained no doubt that it was necessary. In such proper and appropriate cases, such an order is not an infringement of a person's Article 6 rights.
  40. In these circumstances, I would refuse the claimant permission to appeal either the order of Jack J of 23rd May 2001, or the order of Hallett J of 27th June 2001.
  41. This brings me to the claimant's application to be released from his undertaking given to the Court of Appeal on 3rd December 1999 that (briefly) he would discontinue the then current proceedings against the Royal Bank of Scotland and not issue any further proceedings against it in respect of the eviction.
  42. Shortly stated, the background to this undertaking is that in 1995 the claimant brought an action against the bank as mortgagee of the hotel (and against others) as being, in the bank's case, responsible through its staff for having instigated the unlawful eviction so as to ensure that the sale did not fall through, and thus to ensure that the bank recovered as much as possible of the money it had lent to the owner.
  43. On 29th January 1996, Rix J, as he then was, struck out the claim against the bank. Permission to appeal that striking out was refused by the Court of Appeal at an inter-partes hearing on 23rd July 1996.
  44. Thereafter, the claimant commenced further proceedings against the bank. However, as it happened, on 19th October 1999, an appeal by the claimant, relating to certain costs, came before the Court of Appeal. Since the claimant was then saying that he had identified documents suggesting that the bank was in fact mortgagee in possession prior to his eviction, the Court of Appeal authorised a second application by him to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the order of Rix J dated 29th January 1996 (above) striking out his action against the bank.
  45. As it turned out, at or before the hearing of that application in the Court of Appeal, the claimant and the bank in fact reached a compromise which became set out in the order of the Court of Appeal, dated 3rd December 1999. In essence, that compromise was to the effect that the bank would not enforce its orders for costs against the claimant, and that he would not issue any further proceedings against the bank arising out of the eviction. That achieved finality as between the claimant and the bank.
  46. Notwithstanding the claimant's belief that the position was misrepresented to him prior to his entering into that compromise, there is nothing to which he has pointed suggesting that it would be just for the compromise to be effectively re-opened, which would plainly be the reality of releasing him from his undertaking. Yet more proceedings would be issued raising yet again issues in respect of which it has been clearly held that the claimant has already been compensated to the extent which the law regards as just.
  47. As my Lord and I tried to explain to the claimant during the course of this hearing (I am afraid with no success) any damages would not be cumulative, but would have been satisfied to the extent obtained from any other concurrent tortfeasor as regards the same incident.
  48. In these circumstances I, for my part, would refuse the claimant's application for release from the undertaking under discussion.
  49. I well appreciate how profoundly upset and disappointed the claimant will be; but, as Hallett J said, he simply must in his own interests now finally come to terms with the fact that litigation arising out of his wrongful eviction in 1994 is at an end.
  50. I hope for his sake that somehow he will be able to do so and find a way to move on.
  51. LORD JUSTICE JONATHAN PARKER: I agree that these applications should be dismissed for the reasons which my Lord has given. Like Hallett J, in the court below, I have found it impossible to discern any legal basis for the present action. As she said, it is simply an attempt to rake over old ground. I have no doubt that she was right to strike the action out. As she rightly said, and as my Lord has quoted:
  52. "This litigation is over, but Mr Mehta is now losing touch with reality."
  53. The simple fact, which Mr Mehta cannot accept, is that he has been fully compensated for the injury which he suffered by reason of his eviction. His sense of grievance continues unabated, but it cannot form the basis of any further claim.
  54. In the circumstances, I am entirely satisfied that this is an appropriate case for a Grepe v Loam order, for the reasons which Hallett J gave. The two applications for permission to appeal are accordingly dismissed.
  55. As to Mr Mehta's application to be released from his undertaking to this court not to bring any further proceedings against the Royal Bank of Scotland relating to the eviction, like my Lord, I can see no possible basis for releasing Mr Mehta from that undertaking. That application, too, is dismissed.
  56. (Applications dismissed; no order for costs).


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