Supplementary Skeleton Argument

The Court of Appeal has criticised a party which sought permission to adduce a supplementary skeleton argument in circumstances in which its original skeleton was “prolix” and longer than the Practice Directions permitted.

The Court of Appeal emphasised that the purpose of a skeleton argument is to assist the court by setting out as concisely as practicable the arguments on which a party intends to rely. It should both define and confine the areas of controversy and should not include extensive quotation from authorities (PD 52A.5.1(1)). It must not normally exceed 25 pages (excluding front sheets and back sheets) (PD 52C.31(1)).

Jackson LJ stated that the rules exist for a serious purpose: to enable the Court of Appeal to deal with cases in a timely and efficient manner. In the present case, there had been substantial non-compliance by the appellant. The original skeleton was 47 pages long, and the supplemental skeleton was 34 pages long with a 15 page appendix.

All of the points dealt with in the supplemental skeleton were “perfectly foreseeable” and should have been dealt with at the outset. The appellant should have prepared a substitute, single, concise, compliant skeleton argument if it was felt that the original one was defective.

The Court of Appeal allowed in 22 paragraphs of the supplemental skeleton argument and ordered that, whatever the outcome of the appeal, the appellant should not be permitted to recover the costs of either skeleton argument.

The Court stressed that the rules applied equally to commercial cases as other cases.Case: Tchenguiz v Director of the Serious Fraud Office and others [2014] EWCA Civ 1333 (13 October 2014) (Bailii).

Written by James Naylor

Partner, CG Naylor LLP.