Practical civil litigation tips

What are the Civil procedure rules? The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) are important technical procedural requirements as to how a court case must be dealt with. Many of the rules have timescales attached and these may be strictly interpreted and severe penalties such as costs orders or striking out of a case can occur if

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Daniel Blake Litigation Solicitor DarlingtonsWhat are the Civil procedure rules?

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) are important technical procedural requirements as to how a court case must be dealt with. Many of the rules have timescales attached and these may be strictly interpreted and severe penalties such as costs orders or striking out of a case can occur if the rules are not adhered to.

There are 74 parts in the CPR  with each part broken down into several rules and practice directions, creating may hundreds of technical rules which are frankly difficult to decipher if you are not a trained and experienced litigator.

The overriding objective

By far the most important rule which impacts all the other rules is CPR Part 1 Rule 1, which is the Overriding Objective rule. This states that the overriding objective of the court in dealing with cases is to deal with the cases justly taking into account :-

  • relative equality of the parties to the dispute
  • where possible to save unnecessary costs
  • proportionality
  • taking into account the complexity and type of case, that it is dealt with fairly and expeditiously
  • Appropriate resources are allocated to each case.

What is the test for obtaining summary judgment and is it easy to obtain?

In short, whilst it is tempting and an understandable consideration to apply for summary judgment, which is an application asking the court to rule on the case at an early stage, the legal test is not easy to satisfy, so such an application is generally quite risky.

 Each case should be looked at on it’s own merits, with the advice of an experienced litigator, as it is always important to be aware that failure of such an application may well mean not only incurring court fees, own solicitor costs but also can result in being ordered to pay the other party’s costs of defending the application, which will hand over the initiative to the opponent and possibly embolden him, her or them to fight the case vigorously.

The legal test is essentially to satisfy the court that :-

1. The defendant has no real prospect of successfully defending the claim or issue, and

2. There is no other reason why the case or issue should be decided by a trial.

It is important to note that summary judgment cannot be applied for until the defendant has either submitted the acknowledgment of service form or a defence. In addition, the court can stop short of making a full summary judgment order but can make an order that the opponent pays money into court and this can constitute a “knock out” blow in some circumstances. Summary judgment cannot be applied for in residential property possession claims.

If a claim appears to have no basis can an application be made for it to be thrown out?

You can make an application to the court to have a claim thrown out if you believe there are no reasonable grounds for bringing a claim in the first place.  If there is no reasonable chance the claim will succeed, you can apply for summary judgment as defendant in the same way that a claimant can apply.  An application for a summary judgment should state why the claim has no chance of success and why there are no reasons for the claim to progress to a full hearing.

Do information and documents have to be disclosed to the other party?

If the claim has gone to court, you will be required under the CPR to make disclosure of all relevant  documentation and materials which are relevant to the issues in dispute even where that information is unfavourable to your case or commercially sensitive.  If the information is commercially sensitive, you have all the more reason to try and settle out of court.  You should consider whether the information that is being asked for is entirely relevant to the claim and whether the request is proportionate.  For example, a request for documentation going back 8 years may not be appropriate for a small claim as it might prove to be very costly to get hold of such extensive documentation and thus disproportionate to the claim.

What are the 3 tracks in the county courts?

County courts are divided into three tracks :-

  • small claims
  • fast track
  • multi track

Claims below £10,000 which do not present complicated legal issues or which are not specific types of claims excluded from the small claims threshold are dealt with in the small claims courts. The key point about small claims is that, save for court issue fees and very limited legal costs, neither side will be awarded their costs to be paid by the other party if they use a solicitor.

Claims above the small claims limit are mostly dealt with in what is known as the fast track where the procedure is streamlined so that cases are dealt with faster than would be the case where all the procedures are in place for a highly complex or high value claim.

Claims from £15,000 to £25,000 are dealt with in multi track.  Any sufficiently complex or larger claims are dealt with in the high court.  Generally the larger and more complex a claim is, the more involved and time consuming the process is.

 

David Rosen • Disputes

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