We all know the phrase about things not being over until the fat lady sings. But sometimes, even once she’s finished her tune, things are still not over.

If you’re at the Opera, then you’ve still got to do the standing ovation, get out of the theatre and get home, hopefully via some good food and drink.

On the other hand, if it’s a legal matter you’re concerned with, just because the trial has come to an end, doesn’t mean that the matter itself is over.

Whatever order you’ve obtained (or has been granted against you) still has to be enforced and the court won’t automatically do it for you, which comes as a surprise to anyone whose never been involved in court proceedings before. If, for example, the other side have been ordered to pay a sum of money to you, you may still have to take enforcement action to get paid, and there’s always a risk that the other side don’t have the funds and you’ll end up with nothing.

Even worse, there may be an appeal, which could mean more time and costs.

For this reason, we always recommend that clients don’t destroy evidence for a while, and we keep our files for at least 6 years from the end of the case, just to be on the safe side.  Although an appeal should be brought promptly, a party can bring an appeal out of time if they can justify the delay to the court’s satisfaction.

Sadly for a recent party in Tribunal proceedings she wasn’t given such good advice, and didn’t have solicitors so no one else had copies of any of the documents.  After her success in court, she destroyed everything, allegedly!  When the other side appealed against the decision, part of her objection to the matter being re-heard was that she had got rid of all the original documents, which were therefore no longer available for further scrutiny.  The EAT took the view that this was a strange course of action for her to have taken so quickly after the trial and that this indicated that she didn’t want the documents to be scrutinised. They also decided that this meant that it was no longer possible to have a fair retrial, and so her claim was struck out.

Whilst it is entirely possible that the EAT was right to be suspicious, it is also possible that the woman had just made a genuine mistake.  Either way, her original success ended up as a failure, all because she thought/or said she thought that the Tribunal’s decision meant that the matter was at an end.

If in doubt about whether and if so when you can destroy your files, make sure you take legal advice before you do anything that might be irreversible.

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm.  Advice that’s in tune with the law.