Changes in compliance with the court’s timetable

DRAFT

The information herewith gives general guidance. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law or treated as a substitute for specific legal advice concerning individual situations. Read our full legal notice on the left.

 

The stricter approach of the court in regard to complying with the court’s timetable since the court reforms which came into effect on the 1st April 2013

One of the things that has become very clear is that the Courts are unwilling to tolerate unreasonable delay any more when dealing with time limits set down by the Courts.   Litigants in Person were provided with a certain amount of leeway for many years however; in a recent case the Court’s made it perfectly clear that they were not willing to tolerate unreasonable delay by Litigants in Person any more. Therefore, YOU MUST COMPLY WITH ANY TIMETABLE THAT THE COURT SETS OUT OTHERWISE IT COULD PROVE FATAL TO YOUR CLAIM.

So let’s review the basics:

If you are named as a Defendant in proceedings and are served with a claim form, you have 14 days in which to acknowledge service of proceedings, no matter how shocked or upset you are make sure you acknowledge the proceeding because if you don’t Judgement can be obtained against you and this can have an effect on your credit rating. Having filed your Acknowledgement of Service at Court you must ensure that you lodge your Defence and Counterclaim within 28 days of service of proceedings, don’t forget you can telephone the other side and ask for an extension to the time limit. If you do request an extension and the Claimant agrees, make sure that this is confirmed in writing, then there can be no problems if the Claimant does proceed to enter Judgment prior to the agreed period concluding.

Make sure that you respond to each and every claim made in the Statement of Claim.

For example:-

—————————————————————————————————————-

Claim: The Claimant lives at 123 Able Road, Somewhere in London, England.

Your Defence: Agreed (if that is your address). 

—————————————————————————————————————–

Claim: The Defendant was negligent in that the steps of the property were worn and slippery which caused the claimant to fall and break their wrist.

Your Defence: The steps in question were of an adequate standard and there is handrail available to hold onto when ascending or descending the stairs.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Once you have lodged your Defence, the Court will write to you with an Allocation Questionnaire; an example of which you can see at https://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n150-eng.pdf.  The Court will give a date on the front of the Allocation Questionnaire by which you have to file a completed AQ at the Court. Do not miss that deadline as the Court may strike out your Defence if you do not submit your Allocation Questionnaire in time, if you are late filing an Allocation Questionnaire you will normally receive an order from the Court providing you with a further seven days to file the Allocation Questionnaire that will be your LAST CHANCE.

Once Allocations Questionnaires have been filed at the Court and served on the Claimant’s Solicitors the Court may provide you with a date to attend a Case Management Hearing. At a Case Management Hearing the Judge will provide a timetable (called Directions) as to how your case should be conducted.

Both Claimants and Defendants have to comply with the Court’s Directions. In the event that either party does not comply with a Court direction then the opposing side can apply to the Court for an “Unless Order”; e.g. unless the claimant provides their List of Directions within 7 days their claim be struck out”.

Standard Directions look like this:

The Claim is allocated to the Fast Track

1)         At all stages the parties must consider settling this litigation by any means of Alternative Dispute Resolution (including Mediation); any party not engaging in any such means proposed by another must serve a witness statement giving reasons within 21 days of that proposal; such witness statement must not be shown to the trial judge until questions of costs arise.

2)         Disclosure of documents will be dealt with as follows:

a)   by 4pm on xxxx the parties must give to each other standard disclosure of documents by list and category;

b)   by 4pm on xxxx any request must be made to inspect the original of, or to provide a copy of, a disclosable document;

c)    any such request unless objected to must be complied with within 14 days of the request;

d)   by 4pm on xxxx each party must serve and file with the Court a list of issues relevant to the search for and disclosure of electronically stored documents, or must confirm there are no such issues, following Practice Direction 31B.

3)         Evidence of fact will be dealt with as follows:

a)   by 4pm on xxxx all parties must  serve on each other copies of the signed statements of themselves and of all witnesses on whom they intend to rely and all notices relating to evidence.

b)   Oral evidence will not be permitted at trial from a witness whose statement has not been served in accordance with this order or has been served late, except with permission from the Court.

c)    Evidence of fact is limited to xx witnesses on behalf of each party.

d)   Witness statements must not exceed xx pages of A4 in length.

4)         No expert evidence is necessary.

5)         Schedules of Loss must be updated as follows:

a)   by 4pm on xxxx the Claimant must send an up to date schedule of loss to each other party;

b)   by 4pm on xxxx a Defendant, in the event of challenge, must send an up to date counter-schedule of loss to the Claimant.

6)         The trial will be listed as follows:

a)   the trial window is between xxxx and xxxx inclusive;

b)   the estimated length of trial is xx days;

c)    by 4pm on xxxx the parties must file with the court their availability for trial, preferably agreed and with a nominated single point of contact.  They will be notified of the time and place of trial;

d)   by 4pm on xxxx pre-trial check lists must be sent to the court.

7)         Pre-trial directions are as follows:

a)   there will be a pre-trial review 4 weeks before the trial window starts with a time estimate of 30 minutes;

b)   the pre-trial review will may be conducted by telephone if the parties so agree, unless the court orders otherwise.  The Claimant must make the relevant arrangements in accordance with Practice Direction 23A Civil Procedure Rules;

c)    at least 3 clear days before the pre-trial review the Claimant must file and send to the other party or parties preferably agreed and by email:

i)      draft directions,

ii)    a chronology,

iii)   a case summary.

8)         The trial directions are as follows:

a)   not more than 7 nor less than 3 clear days before the trial, the Claimant must file at court and serve an indexed and paginated bundle of documents, which complies with the requirements of Rule 39.5 Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Direction 39A.  The parties must endeavour to agree the contents of the bundle before it is filed.  The bundle will include:

i)      a chronology,

ii)    a trial timetable;

b)   the parties must file with the court and exchange skeleton arguments at least 3 days before the trial by email.

9)         Because this Order has been made without a hearing, the parties have the right to apply to have the order set aside, varied or stayed.  A party making such an application must send or deliver the application to the court (together with any appropriate fee) to arrive within 7 days of service of this Order.

 

Sometimes the Court will give directions without a case management hearing and as can be seen from No 9 above in these situations if you do not agree with the directions you can apply within the time provided by the Court to set aside, vary or stay the Court’s directions

IF YOU IGNORE THESE DIRECTIONS YOU DO SO AT YOUR PERIL. 

If you cannot comply with one of the directions, either ring the Claimant’s representative and see if you can agree a short extension (if they agree make sure it is confirmed IN WRITING) or alternatively make an application to the Court seeking an extension of time, MAKE THE APPLICATION BEFORE THE DATE REFERRED TO IN THE DIRECTIONS EXPIRES.

You will need to make an application by using a Form N244, which can be located at http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n244-eng.pdf.  Inform the Judge (who will consider your application) of the reason that you cannot comply with the Order;  “I didn’t have time” or “I was too tired” will not be considered a good enough reason.

If a Judge can see that you have made a good attempt to deal with your claim within the timetable laid down by the Court then, when you do need to apply for an extension of time in respect of a particular direction, it is likely that he/she will be more open to granting an order in this regard when you need one.

 

Deborah Aloba

Affordable Law For You Limited

 

The information herewith gives general guidance. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law or treated as a substitute for specific legal advice concerning individual situations. Read our full legal notice on the left.

 

Return to Home