Inner House clarifies law on reduction of decrees in absence
4 September 2012
In Royal Bank of Scotland v Matheson  CSIH 64, the bank sought reduction of a decree in absence. The decree in absence (for payment of £200,000) had been granted in favour of Mr Matheson in his earlier action against the bank, following a mistake by the bank’s solicitors which resulted in defences not being lodged by the bank.
After proof in the action of reduction, the Lord Ordinary held that reduction of a decree in absence was not normally granted where there had been failures by solicitors. The Inner House accepted the bank’s argument that the Lord Ordinary had misdirected himself and that, while a mistake by solicitors was a factor to be considered, it was not decisive. The Inner House held that the test was consideration of the whole circumstances bearing upon the justice of the case. Here there was a plainly arguable defence and in the whole circumstances it was in the interests of justice to allow it to be heard. Accordingly, the court allowed the bank’s Reclaiming Motion and granted reduction of the decree in absence.
Two Axiom members were involved in the case before the Inner House: Alistair Clark QC appeared for the bank and Roddy Dunlop QC acted as Senior Counsel for Mr Matheson.
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