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New PD allows parties to agree longer extension of time

McCann: Fair but firm

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee has issued a practice direction allowing parties to agree longer extensions of time to comply with procedural time limits due to the coronavirus.

New practice direction 51ZA [1] says that, until 30 October, the provision in CPR rule.3.8 allowing parties to agree an extension of up to 28 days has been doubled to 56 days.

The change mirrors Master Davison’s decision [2] last month in what was described at the time of the first Covid-19 direction.

Any extension of time beyond 56 days requires the permission of the court. An application for permission will be considered on the papers, and a reconsideration at a hearing.

The practice direction says: “In so far as compatible with the proper administration of justice, the court will take into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic when considering applications for the extension of time for compliance with directions, the adjournment of hearings, and applications for relief from sanctions.”

Legal groups have been urging co-operation over litigation during the crisis – just yesterday, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and Forum of Insurance Lawyers issued guidance [3] to that effect, after Thompsons and the Association of British Insurers last week launched a protocol [4] to ensure neither side in personal injury litigation sought to take advantage of the difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Today, defendant firm Horwich Farrelly issued a ‘charter’ on how it planned to behave during this period, saying it would listen and respond “sympathetically to all requests for leeway and assistance, where genuinely sought”.

Similar to the ABI protocol – which is for insurers and claimant law firms to sign – it pledged to bring any disagreement to conclusion “where possible” and not seek “to take advantage of issues arising from the current difficulties”.

The firm also undertook to provide on request the contact details of a senior member of Horwich Farrelly who would look to resolve any issues that arise.

Managing partner Ronan McCann said: “As a firm we have always adopted a ‘fair but firm’ handling philosophy. We are no strangers to collaborating with other firms in the industry and have often readily agreed to different ways of working with multiple claimant firms – especially where a more consensual approach to claims will benefit both claimants and insurers.”

The 118th update to the CPR also includes a small change to new practice direction 51Y [5], on open justice in remote hearings, that makes clear any person seeking permission to listen to or view a recording of a hearing simply has to request it and is not required to make a formal application.