In Patel and another v Patel and others [2019] EWHC 2643 (Ch), the High Court has confirmed that putting forward a defence to a claim as a whole does not relieve a defendant of the requirement to address individual allegations. This is the case even though the defence, if proved, would be a complete defence to the claim.


The claimants had alleged that the first and second defendants had, among other things, breached a joint venture agreement and certain fiduciary duties said to be owed. The claimants made a claim for an account of profits in relation to sums they said were owed to them through a series of SPVs. 

The first defendant (whose defence was adopted by the other defendants) accepted that he owed a duty to account for profits in relation to some SPVs but not others. In this respect, the court observed, he set out his defence “in reasonable detail” but he did not plead to the individual facts said to give rise to the breaches alleged by the claimants. It was common ground that the defence, if proved, would give rise to a complete defence to the claims.

Did the defendants need to do more?

The rules

CPR 16.5(1) requires a defendant to state which allegations are denied, which they are unable to admit or deny but which they require the claimant to provide, and any allegations they admit. 

Where an allegation is denied, the defendant must state their reasons for this and their own version if they intend to put one forward (CPR 16.5(2)).

Should the defendant fail to deal with an allegation but sets out in their defence the nature of their case in relation to the issue to which that allegation is relevant, they shall be taken to require that allegation to be provide (CPR 16.5(3)).

The defendants' position

The defendants argued that they did not need to do more than plead a positive case which amounted to a complete defence. There was no need for them to plead in addition an “alternative” case in answer to individual allegations. The allegations had been denied, even if in only the most general terms, and they had stated their “reasons for doing so” (or alternatively the nature of their case) on the basis of their overall defence. CPR 16.5 contained no other relevant requirements for a defence. Even if they were in fact able to admit or deny an allegation, they were not required to say anything further because, having set out the nature of their case, they were to be taken to require that allegation to be proved.


The court said that such an approach to CPR 16.5 was misconceived. The defendants’ approach confused “allegation” with “claim” in assuming that once an allegation (in the sense of a claim) had been denied, the rule was satisfied. This was wrong. An “allegation” was an allegation of an individual fact. CPR 16.5(1) was mandatory and required a defendant to say which individual allegations it was unable to admit or deny. Meanwhile, CPR 16.5(3) could not be used to avoid dealing with an allegation.


The decision underlines that the court will apply such provisions strictly. CPR 16.5(3) in particular only permits a defendant who genuinely cannot admit or deny an allegation to put forward the nature of their case in relation to the issue to which that allegation was relevant. The decision also underlines that “allegation” should not be confused with “cause of action” or “claim”: CPR 16.5(1) draws a clear distinction between the particulars of claim and the individual allegations it contains.

While the court viewed the defendants’ approach as misconceived and unhelpful, it considered that an unless order would be premature. The defendants had set out the gist of their case and had not been guilty of failure to conduct the litigation properly in other material respects.