Case Management Conference
Once both claimant(s) and defendant(s) have completed the Claim and the Defence (often called “the Pleadings”), a judge will review the case and schedule a Case Management Conference (“CMC”). The main purpose of this first CMC is to:
1. Agree on the main issues of the dispute, gain an idea of how long it is going to take the legal teams to prepare their cases and fix a timetable to take the case to trial. The Court will then set Directions which require certain steps to be completed by specific dates. Typical steps are:
o Exchange of witness statements
o Exchange of expert evidence
o Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may also be ordered. Courts are very keen to get the parties together to try to settle their differences outside of the formal Court environment. Mediation is the most common form of ADR (see below).
2. Agree costs budgets. It is now a requirement that both parties prepare a budget that sets out the costs of taking the case through to trial. The Court must approve these budgets which gives the parties a clear idea of
o what they are going to need to pay their own lawyers; and
o what they might have to pay the other side if they lose the case.
In mass claims, there might also be a Group Litigation Order (GLO). This is a specific order that the Court can make, giving a fairly wide discretion for the Judge to manage the case the way s/he thinks fit. GLOs are often seen as over bureaucratic and are resisted by the parties, but Judges will often push for them if they think that the claims give rise to common or related issues of fact or law. There are three main advantages to GLOs:
1. A Judge is actively involved in managing the case;
2. A register of claimants has to be compiled and any judgment or settlement must apply to all claimants on the register; and
3. Specific costs rules apply, meaning that all claimants are responsible for their pro rata proportion of costs.
The CMC, or teh Directions that follow it, will probably produce a trial window too. This is a three month period in which the Court will expect to be able to find time to hear the case. Unfortunately, one of the features of mass claims is that it is challenging to find a clear slot for the Court to hear the trial.
TYPICAL TIMESCALE – THREE MONTHS
Step 6: Disclosure