AND always be prepared. Two sayings that should be in every lawyer’s arsenal and can result in big wins for you and your client. The Litigation team at Axiom Stone are instructed by a group of leaseholders involved in responding to a claim by their freeholder to determine the reasonableness of service charges claimed in carrying out fire safety works following the Grenfell tragedy.
Prior to the commencement of the 3 day hearing the leaseholders knew that they wanted to call their appointed fire safety expert to give live evidence having identified as a potential cost saving. We made a request of the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for our expert to give his live evidence by way of video conferencing. This request was rejected by the Tribunal days before the commencement of the hearing as the Judge felt that they could not set up the technology in time.
As this was an issue that was easily remedied, our team arrived at the Tribunal on the first day of the hearing armed multiple laptops, cables and a good quality microphone. At the commencement of the hearing, the legal team for the leaseholders assured the court that not only were we able to set up a system by which the Judges could see the expert, who would be broadcasting from Saudi Arabia, but both parties’ barristers would be able to see and hear the expert as well. Toby Matthews, on behalf of Axiom Stone, assured the Judges that the system could be set up easily and that the expert had been lined up accordingly. The Judge stated that, so long as it would work well, he would permit the remote evidence to go ahead.
During a short adjournment, Toby was able to set up the video conference meeting with the expert using the equipment he had brought to the hearing and the screens already installed in the Tribunal. The expert gave his evidence, was seen and heard clearly by all in the Tribunal and at the conclusion the Judge confirmed that this was the first occasion in the history of the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) on residential matters where live evidence had been given by way of video conferencing.
Despite the fact that the Tribunal had rejected the initial request, the Litigation team considered the importance of live evidence being given and decided to renew the request to the Tribunal in person. By going to the Tribunal armed with the necessary equipment and a little gumption, despite a previous refusal, we were not only able to further our clients’ position but we were the driving force behind an advancement in the way that hearings are conducted.