- October 9, 2021
- Posted by: Nicholas Fitch
The case of Cowan against Foreman was brought before the High Court and Justice Mostyn dismissed the applicant`s request for an extension of time and made the following observations on the standstill agreements: “It seems to me that, although the judge correctly concluded that the effect of section 4 is that Parliament found that the power to extend the six-month time limit belongs to the to the Court of First Instance, and that any agreement not to express an opinion on the delay may not be binding, without prejudice to the negotiations and not to the question of procedure. Although the potential applicant must take a risk if a request for an extension of time is made a posteriori in circumstances where negotiations have failed, it seems unlikely to me that the Tribunal would refuse to approve this approach if both parties were legally represented. “(Lady Justice Asplin). The case of Cowan v Foreman (as executor) and other FD18F00079 is a disputed inheritance right in which the wife of the deceased asserted rights against her estate under the Inheritance (Commission for Family and Dependents Act 1975). The estate was estimated at nearly £16 million at the time of death. According to section 4 of the 1975 Act, a right may not be invoked on the expiry of the period of 6 months from the date of award of the succession, unless authorized by the Court. Here, the claim was issued almost 17 months after the expiry of the 6-month period, but part of those 17 months was subject to a standstill agreement. Under a standstill agreement, the potential claimant and the defendant agree to suspend the limitation period and/or extend the limitation period, generally to allow for further investigations and to consider the possibility of a solution. There is an important difference between, on the one hand, the suspension of the duration for a given period and, on the other hand, the extension of the limitation period to a given date: this concept does not apply only to claims under the Succession Act. For example, in the previous case, Russell and another against Stone (t/a PSP Consultants) and others  EWHC 1555 (TCC) (hereinafter Russell v Stone), which was tried before the Technology and Construction Court, stated that instead of a standstill agreement, a better approach might be to initiate proceedings and then apply for a stay, to follow and close the minutes procedure before the trial. The Tribunal had to consider when the causes of appeal at issue had arisen and whether the standstill agreements had led to the suspension or extension of the limitation period. – The fact that the lawyers based the third standstill agreement on a proposal based on the principle of suspension of time supported the plaintiffs` position (despite serial derogations from the original). Since a standstill agreement is a contract that is often several pages long, it is important to remember the principles of treaty interpretation, namely that an objective approach must be taken and that the document must be interpreted as a whole (cf.
Arnold v Brittan AC 1619). It is therefore important to ask whether the overall importance is clear to the objective viewer. The use of plain language and accurate data is essential. In his judgment, Mostyn J said, “I was told it was `common practice` to agree on such a status quo agreement. . . .