High Court approves first application to transfer case to shorter trials scheme


Rolls Building

Rolls Building: new case doubles STS cases to two

The High Court has approved the first application to transfer a case started in the normal way into the shorter trials scheme (STS).

Mr Justice Birss said he believed that, once the case was transferred, it would be “the second case in the Rolls Building to be in the scheme”, with the other having gone straight into it.

Birss J said that under the STS, cases were managed by a docketed judge, with trials limited to four days and summary costs instead of costs budgeting.

“The initiative as a whole also seeks to foster a change in litigation culture: a recognition that comprehensive disclosure and a full, oral trial is often unnecessary for justice to be achieved.

“That in turn should improve access to justice by producing significant savings in the time and cost of litigation.”

Birss J said cases could be started in the STS by issuing them in the relevant court and marking the claim form, and transfer of cases was dealt with Practice Direction 51N.

The judge said it had been pointed out to him that none of the practice direction “state in terms that the court can transfer an existing case into the STS”, although “they could be said to presuppose that such an order can be made”.

Delivering judgment in Mosaic Home Ownership v Peer Real Estate [2016] EWHC 257 (Ch), Birss J said that the parties agreed that the case should be transferred and he believed “the court does have power to transfer an existing case into the STS and to transfer a case out of the scheme if it is within it”.

He said the overriding objective, to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost, “expressly includes, as far as practicable: saving expense, dealing with cases in ways which are proportionate and allotting to a case an appropriate share of the court’s resources” under CPR 1.19(1).

“Having an appropriate case conducted in the STS is likely to reduce the cost to the parties and at the same time free up the court’s resources to make them available to other litigants.”

Birss J said the court’s power under CPR 3.1(2)(m) to take any step or make any order for the purpose of managing the case and furthering the overriding objective provided an “express basis” for the court to make the necessary order in this case.

He said that transferring a “proper case into the scheme is likely to save expense, deal with the case in a proportionate way and allot to it an appropriate share of the court’s resources”.

Construing practice direction 51N as a whole, the STS was clearly intended to work in such a way that cases could be transferred in and out, he found.

The STS in the Chancery Division was for “business cases in the widest sense”, as opposed to “purely private, non-commercial matters such as family property and family trusts”.

The case before him illustrated the “wide scope” of business cases, as it involved specific performance of a contract by which the claimant contended that the defendant agreed to sell a property in London.

“This is obviously a commercial property dispute, and as such falls well within the ambit of the STS. The fact that the claimant is a registered provider of social housing does not mean this case falls outside the scheme.”

The judge concluded: “I am satisfied that the court has power to transfer this case to the Shorter Trial Scheme and that it is an appropriate case to be transferred. Under the scheme this dispute will come on to trial faster and at a lower cost that might otherwise have been the case.”

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