Henderson v Henderson6 established a rule of abuse of process that is now known by the name of the case. In making that 19th century judgment, Sir James Wigram explained that parties are required to present their entire case during the course of proceedings. That is, raising an argument in subsequent proceedings which could have been raised in the earlier proceedings will constitute an abuse of process. But what constitutes subsequent proceedings? In the recent case of Kensell v Khoury, the question was whether the Henderson principle could be invoked in the same action, where parties seek to amend their claims to replicate a claim which had earlier been summarily dismissed.
Khoury and Kensell occupied adjoining properties whose transfers contained similar covenants to comply with relevant planning conditions. Kensell carried out conversion works to his property from 2004, which Khoury argued were in breach of planning conditions. The relevant planning authority did not investigate this. Khoury issued proceedings in 2012 to seek a declaration that Kensell's building works were in breach of the restrictive covenant, which was amended in 2015 to include a claim in damages for nuisance. It was alleged that Khoury could enforce the restrictive covenant on the basis that the two properties were part of a building scheme. Kensell successfully applied for summary judgment in respect of the restrictive covenant claim in 2017 (the claim for nuisance continued), which Khoury unsuccessfully appealed. In the process of appeal, and following a change of legal advisors, Khoury applied to amend his claim to include a breach of covenant claim vested on section 56(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925. Kensell opposed this application on the grounds that it would be an abuse of process to introduce a new argument at this stage in proceedings, rather than before the summary judgment hearing. The County Court allowed the amendment, which Khoury unsuccessfully appealed.
In hearing the appeal, Zacaroli J held that the Henderson rule could in principle apply to different stages in the same proceedings, for example, where an aspect of the claim had been advanced and dismissed at an earlier phase in the proceedings. He noted, however, that the principle is less likely to apply in these circumstances than when a new action is brought. In reaching these conclusions, the court found that that the County Court's findings were incorrect as it had failed to consider the Court of Appeal's application of Henderson in the key case of Tannu.7
Zacaroli J explained that a key factor in determining whether the rule applies to different stages in the same proceedings is whether the earlier claim had been dismissed without a full assessment of its merits. As such, it is less likely that the Henderson rule will apply following a strike out application than a preliminary issue hearing. The judge also emphasised the court's wide discretion in granting permission for amendments to claim, pursuant to CPR 17, and the practice to permit amendments after a strike out hearing before the ruling is made final.
Applying his findings to the facts, Zacaroli J held that, while the introduction of Khoury's section 56(1) claim could in principle be an abuse of process (contrary to the Country Court's judgment), it was not on the facts an abuse of process. This was because the action continued in respect of the nuisance claim and the primary reason section 56(1) was not relied on earlier was due to a failure of Khoury's previous legal advisors. He noted that Khoury was correct in challenging the amendment, however, and as such made no order as to costs.
Zacaroli J clarified that the Henderson rule may apply in the context of the same proceedings, depending on the stage of the proceedings and any determinations made by that stage. Whilst it is yet to be used to bar an application to amend, this judgment again highlights the importance of exploring all options from the outset of proceedings and not relying on the ability to amend your claim if your initial strategy is unsuccessful.