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Judges unveil streamlined trial procedures for commercial cases

Rolls Building [1]

Rolls Building: procedures aim for “speedy but fair” litigation

A committee of High Court judges, joined by a leading QC and City solicitor, has revealed its recommendations for faster trials of commercial disputes.

The new trial procedures, set out in a consultation document, are intended for business cases in the Rolls Building.

A ‘shorter trial’ procedure, with limited disclosure and oral evidence, would deliver a judgment within a year of the issue of proceedings.

For more complicated cases, a ‘flexible trial’ procedure would allow the parties, by agreement, to adapt court procedures to suit their case.

The committee was made up of Mr Justice Hamblen from the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart from the Technology and Construction Court, Mr Justice Birss from the Chancery Division and Mr Justice Jay from the Queen’s Bench Division.

They were joined by Sara Cockerill QC, based at Essex Court Chambers, and Ed Crosse, a partner at Simmons & Simmons.

The ‘shorter trial’ procedure aims to offer “dispute resolution on a commercial timescale”.

The consultation states that these cases would be managed by docketed judges, with the aim of reaching trial within around 10 months of issue of proceedings and judgment within a further six weeks.

“The procedure would be suitable for cases which can be fairly tried on the basis of limited disclosure and oral evidence. The maximum length of trial would be four days.”

The ‘flexible trial’ procedure “allows the parties, by agreement, to adapt court procedures to suit their case and encourages the use of a more simplified and expedited procedure” than the full trial procedure provided for under the CPR.

The default ‘flexible trial’ procedure involves disclosure limited to the documents on which the party relies and any specific disclosure it requires from any other party; factual evidence to be given by way of written statements and oral evidence limited to key witnesses and/or issues; expert evidence to be given by way of written reports and oral evidence limited to key issues.

“Subject to the overriding discretion of the court, the parties could, however, adapt these procedures to suit their particular case and have, for example, standard disclosure on identified issues and wider oral evidence. The key is flexibility and choice.

“The aim of both proposals is the achievement of speedy but fair justice at a reasonable and proportionate cost.

“They should also help to foster a change in litigation culture which involves the recognition that comprehensive disclosure and a full, oral trial on all issues is often not necessary for justice to be achieved.

“That recognition will in turn lead to significant savings in the time and costs of litigation.”

The deadline for comments is 29 May 2015.