A former girlfriend of mine, Elizabeth, took the foolish step of instigating legal proceedings against me. This vexatious litigant decided that I owed her a sum of money. I will not trouble you with the intricacies of the dispute but it revolved around an investment that she made. The investment did not work and being the type of person who cannot accept that she could get it wrong, Elizabeth looked to me for redress.
At first it began with a couple of telephone calls. We had parted company but I was pleased to note that she had retained my mobile number (I of course had ensured I had kept hers)and she telephoned me requesting payment of the investment sum. Initially I decided that I would string her along and explained that I would look into it to see what I could do. There was of course no prospect of her recovering that money. I do not indulge in repayments and moreover it was her own idiocy that resulted in her loss, she ought to have undertaken some due diligence beforehand and if she failed to do so then on her head be it. I enjoyed receiving the texts and calls from her as she asked when she might receive the money. I fobbed her off using my charm and well-honed powers of procrastination. Her demanding nature served as delicious fuel to me.
The calls ended and instead she penned a couple of letters. They were rather well written, eloquent perhaps, albeit it misplaced both in fact and in law. I replied to them, after all, it would be ill-mannered not to do so, but now I rejected her assertions out of hand. I wielded my power of no and had no need to explain myself. I am not accountable to her. I am not accountable to anybody.
The next letter made threats of police involvement and I laughed at those. I knew that would get her nowhere and I replied in such terms. I pointed out how such an action would be entirely misguided and if she raised a complaint she would find herself in the receiving end of litigation from me. She wisely heeded those warnings.
She did however maintain her claim in the civil arena and she instructed a firm of solicitors to recover the money that she claim she owed. I ignored these letters. I was becoming bored of these demands now and besides I had other targets to attend to. I thought she would get the message and cease with her tiresome pursuit but instead she issued court proceedings against me. In order to be satisfied that I had them she chose to instruct a process server to effect personal service of the court papers rather than send them through the post as anybody would do so normally. I entertained myself avoiding this process server. I would then agree to turn up at an appointed time and place to be served but then fail to do so. This meant more cost for her and more frustration for her.
My evasion of her attempts at service resulted in her securing an order for substituted service and one evening the papers and the accompanying order for this method of service to be effective were shoved into the letter box by my gate. I read through the papers and scoffed at the allegations. Whilst tempted to handle the dispute myself I decided I would instruct my own lawyers and purposefully chose an expensive outfit, far superior to the local hacks hire by Elizabeth. I attended my first meeting with a partner in the firm (I was not being fobbed off with some junior solicitor, I wanted the head of commercial litigation in this City firm acting for me) and issued my instructions.
“I know all about risk, costs and so on so save your breath. You are to defend this claim, counterclaim against her and then delay and prevaricate at every step of the way. Seek extensions, deliberately delay responding to letters, send incomplete material and look to frustrate the process. Do not go so far as to incur an interim cost order against me, that will cause her to think that she has met with a measure of success and that is unacceptable. I do not care about your bill, I can easily afford it, but I want her wracking up a large bill so she gives up. Understand?”
The partner smiled the cold grin of a legal shark and nodded. He was my kind of man.
Thereafter my lawyers delayed in acknowledging the claim until the last moment. They sought an extension for the defence and counterclaim and then another. When Elizabeth refused the third request, my lawyers applied to court and obtained it. She sought an extension when filing her defence to my counterclaim. We agreed, since it slowed the matter down. My lawyers filed requests for further information about her caseand then more. We slowed down disclosure, released ours in a piecemeal fashion and pored over her disclosure lists and sought additional documents and launched further applications against Elizabeth. We sought documentation from third parties and made applications against those parties in order to delay the provision of witness evidence. Oddly enough, several of the witnesses she wanted to rely on became unco-operative to her and the threats of witness summonses against them merely caused them to dig their heels in.
Throughout this we suggested mediation and then changed our minds and then changed our minds again. This caused a hiatus in the litigation. We would not accept their suggested mediators and we kept changing the ones we wanted, so we decided a court had to make that decision. More cost and delay. We chopped and changed our dates of availability and then agreed a date which we then altered at the last minute owing to unforeseen circumstances. Then the mediator became unavailable (he was an accountant who suddenly found himself instructed on a different matter- I wonder whose company did that?) so a new one had to be appointed so we went through the rigmarole of all that once again. The costs mounted and mounted, they were of little consequence to me, but they soon outstripped what Elizabeth was claiming.
The mediation was fruitless. I spent most of my time engaging with the attractive trainee solicitor from the firm engaged by Elizabeth and drawing some rather pleasant if unexpected supply from her. We were never going to settle and made outrageous demands of them throughout.
The litigation resumed as we moved towards the preparation of forensic accountant reports and lay witness statements. Then there was silence from the opposition. Three years had elapsed from the commencement of proceedings. Her solicitors came off the record as acting for her and nobody replaced them. She was now acting in person. Her funds had been exhausted and nobody was willing to act on a conditional basis.
Bit by bit her demands lowered and lowered and lowered until just recently she suggested that we adopt a drop hands basis, namely she bears her costs and I bear mine and that is it. After delaying my response I decided that this was entirely acceptable, after all, there was a huge risk if it went to trial that I would lose and be stung for her claim, interest and costs. That did not trouble me, it was the fact of losing to her that did. I instructed my solicitors to accept her proposal, draw up the relevant consent order and have it signed and then I sent her a note.
I recall the last time we spoke on the telephone you demanded money for your idiotic investment and declared you would “see me in court”. You never had a chance of getting me into a court room for the trial of this case. I always win.