Civil Court trials

Introduction

The vast majority of claims commenced in the civil courts of England never reach trial. Proceedings may fail to reach the trial stage for many reasons. Judgement may be entered in default or on application for summary judgment. The proceedings may be struck out as an abuse of process, or as a result of a sanction, or discontinued. Most frequently however, the parties avoid trial by negotiating a settlement of their dispute. Though if the dispute between the parties cannot be resolved by negotiation, either party may seek to have it determined by the court.

Pre-trial checklists and fixing the date of the trial

Essentially, directions made either on track allocation or at case management conference or other directions hearing will fix a date for filing pre-trial checklists, and trial dates will be fixed as soon as possible. In fast track cases this means at the allocation stage. Trial dates may either be fixtures, which obviously means that the trial will commence on a specific date, or may be given by means of a trial ‘window’ of up to three weeks.

Preliminary issues

As a general rule, it is in the interests of the parties and the administration of justice that all issues arising in a dispute are tried at the same time. However, there are a number of rare and exceptional cases where some question or issue can be more conveniently or economically dealt with before or separately from the main trial. There are three main types of order that can be made:

  • The trial of a preliminary issue on a point of law;
  • The separate trial of preliminary issues or questions of fact; and
  • The separate trials of the issues of liability and damages.

Jury trial

A party may apply for the claim to be tried by jury if there is in issue either:

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For more information on:

  • Trial bundles
  • Hearing in public or private
  • Non-attendance
  • Witnesses 
  • The day of the hearing