Without Prejudice

Do you know what the legal phrase “without prejudice” means?

Partner, Matthew Bailey, says, “This is a term with a very specific meaning that is used by lawyers and is often misused by litigants when they communicate with the people with whom they are in dispute prior to involving their solicitor”.

“Without Prejudice” is actually a term meaning there is no admission of guilt and is usually used in the context of a negotiation to avoid litigation. So, for example, if you were in dispute with your neighbour and sent them a “without prejudice” email offering £1,000 for them to drop their case, they could not then present this email in a subsequent court hearing (where they might be wanting to say “see, she offered me £1,000 so she must have thought I was right”).

What the phrase does not mean (and it is often misunderstood to mean this) is “whatever, I say in this meeting or put in this correspondence cannot subsequently be used as evidence in court”. A recent case underlined this very point. The case arose from a landlord suing his tenant for rent arrears where the tenant appealed a court order because, they argued their admission of guilt was made in a meeting that was “without prejudice” and therefore inadmissible.

The court rejected this argument; with the judge saying “I am satisfied that this was not a "without prejudice" meeting. It was not for the purpose of a genuine attempt to compromise a dispute between the parties. It follows, therefore, that privilege does not attach and, therefore, there can be no question of any waiver”.
If you would like assistance in relation to a civil dispute, call Matthew on 01329 822333 for further information.

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