The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) govern the litigation process, containing rules as to how each stage is to be conducted and what information documents are to include. The CPR aims to reduce costs for parties by encouraging information exchange and alternative dispute resolution, whilst also improving how a case is managed.
There are various pre-action protocols, covering different types of cases, which require claimants to set out their claim in full prior to issuing court proceedings.
If the pre-action protocols are not followed, there could be cost consequences if the claim proceeds through the court process. This may mean that a successful party is awarded less costs than they would have had they have complied with the protocol.
Issuing Court Proceedings
A claim form is filed, including particulars of claim setting out the basis of the claim in full, with payment of an issue fee.
The CPR provides guidance as to how a claim should be issued including serving documents on the other party.
Acknowledgement of Service and Filing a Defence
If a claim is issued pursuant to CPR part 7, within 14 days of the particulars of claim being served on the defendant, they will either need to file an acknowledgement of service or a defence, or admit and pay the claim. A defendant can also bring a counterclaim when filing their defence.
If the claim is not responded to, the claimant can request judgment in default - in other words a CCJ – against the defendant.
Allocation of the Claim
Where a claim is defended, the court will proceed with allocating the claim to one of the below tracks:
- Small claims track: straightforward claims of up to £10,000
- Fast track: claims of more complexity and of a value between £10,000 and £25,000
- Multi track: complex cases and usually of a value over £25,000
- Intermediate track: a new track introduced from 1 October 2023 for monetary claims between the value of £25,000 and £100,000 of modest complexity. Depending on the circumstances the claim may be allocated to this track or if more appropriate the multi-track as above.
Before allocation the parties will be required to complete a directions questionnaire to assist the court.
Which track the claim is allocated to will determine whether a party’s costs are recoverable or to what extent. If you are defending a claim it is important to consider whether it is possible for the claim to be allocated to a lower track - to minimise the costs you will be ordered to pay if you are unsuccessful in defending the claim.
Case Management Conference
The court may require a case management conference which is a hearing in which parties representatives must attend court, to deal with things such as a timetable for the next steps, monitoring costs and making sure both sides have followed and are following the court’s directions.
Disclosure, Witness Statements and Expert Evidence
Part of the court’s directions will be dates for disclosure, witness evidence exchange and expert reports, if needed.
All parties to litigation have a disclosure obligation and a right to inspect documents from the other party. Parties must not dispose of any documents which may be relevant to the claim, whether that be for or against their own claim. Each party will be required to list the documents in their control and documents that were in their control, detailing why they are no longer. The duty of disclosure is ongoing throughout the proceedings.
In every claim, all parties will be ordered to submit witness evidence and documents they intend to rely on. If a witness statement is not filed or it is not compliant with CPR 32, the court may not allow a party to give oral evidence at trial, as this is based on the witness evidence filed. With no evidence at trial, this puts either the claim or the defence in jeopardy.
If an expert is required, the court will give directions as to whether this will be a jointly instructed expert or not and when the report is to be filed by. An expert is impartial and provides their opinion on a particular matter, for example, a surveyor may be required in a building dispute.
The court may order that pre-trial checklists are filed so that parties can provide further information on the case in the lead up to trial. The court may then order for a pre-trial review to take place.
The pre-trial review is to decide a timetable for the trial, who will give evidence, the content of the trial bundle and a time estimate for the trial.
Preparing for Trial
The claimant will be required to put together a trial bundle, which will be sent to the court and the defendant. The trial will be conducted with reference to the documents in the bundle.
If the claimant is not legally represented but the defendant is, then usually the represented defendant will prepare the bundle instead.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the trial could be spread across multiple days.
The judge will hand down their judgment on the day or may set another hearing for this.
Costs will then be decided and generally the losing party pays the winning party’s costs. There may be applications for unreasonable behaviour or arguments relating to previous offers made that could impact on the costs being awarded by the court.
If you have received a claim form and are unsure how to respond, or you have received directions from the court and would like some advice on the next steps, contact the dispute resolution team to discuss the claim.
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