A two-year test will begin this autumn to streamline High Court cases so judgment is reached within a year of proceedings being issued.
The shorter trials pilot will operate from 1 October and can apply to all claims issued thereafter in any of the Rolls Building courts.
The scheme is designed to reduce the cost and time of litigation and inject more certainty into proceedings – as well as clear some of the backlog of cases in the High Court. Several judges have made it clear in recent years that they want the size of bundles to be reduced.
According to a new practice direction in updated civil procedure rules, litigants will be given shorter timescales and made to submit smaller particulars of claim if they want the case concluded quickly. Parties can also avoid costs management rules set down by the Jackson reforms if they agree to take part in the scheme.
Trials will be no longer than four days, including reading time, and all claims in the scheme will be allocated a designated judge at the time of the first case management conference.
Defendants will have 14 days from notification that a claimant wants a shorter trial to respond to the request. If the defendant files an acknowledgment of service stating that they wish to dispute the court’s jurisdiction, the period for serving and filing a defence is 28 days after filing of the acknowledgment of service.
Particulars of claim for shorter trials should be no more than 20 pages in length, with the court agreeing to more only if there is good reason.
The particulars of claim must include a brief summary of the dispute and expected issues, a full statement of all relief or remedies claimed and detailed calculations of any sum claimed.
At the case management conference, the court will review the issues, approve a list of issues, consider alternative dispute resolution, give directions for trial, fix a trial date and fix a date for a pre-trial review.
Witness statements shall be limited to 25 pages and expert evidence at trial given by written reports or oral evidence limited to identified issues.
After trial, the court will endeavour to hand down judgment within six weeks of the hearing or final written submissions.
Costs management rules, set out in CPR 3.12, will not apply to cases in the shorter trials scheme, unless the parties agree.
Instead, within 21 days of the conclusion of the trial the parties shall each file and simultaneously exchange schedules of their costs incurred in the proceedings, with enough detail for the trial judge to make a summary assessment.
The scheme will not be suitable for cases involving an allegation of fraud or dishonesty, cases requiring extensive disclosure or cases involving multiple issues.
Meanwhile, at the same time as the shorter trials pilot, a flexible trials scheme will also be applied to claims started in any of the Rolls Building courts.
Parties can agree to adapt trial procedure to suit their particular case, with the scheme designed to encourage parties to limit disclosure and to confine oral evidence at trial to the minimum necessary for the fair resolution of their disputes.