Court’s case management powers
The court has various case management powers. In order to deal with the cases effectively, expeditiously and fairly it is necessary to use those powers. It is the court’s responsibility to ‘further the overriding objective’. This includes analysing the issues at an early stage, controlling the progress of the case, managing the timetables etc. The court also has the power to decide whether the case will be resolved at a trial or it will be dismissed. It is within the court’s management powers to allocate the cases to various tracks. The process of allocation is explained below.
It is important for the court to allocate the cases to various tracks as the cases differ and it is sometimes more appropriate for a different court to deal with a certain issue. Managing cases like this may save time and expense. Allocation of the cases takes place after the defendant served a defence to a claim against him or her. The case may be allocated to one of the three tracks: small claims track, fast track or multi-track. The purpose of such an allocation is to deal with the cases more efficiently and fast. Certain types of cases may however require more attention due to complexity and require special type of management. When the court allocates the case, it is the first time that it considers the case. The court looks at the merits of the case and other important considerations. Each party must fill in allocation questionnaire before the court decides where to allocate the case. It is important to fill in this questionnaire so that the court decides to which track the case will be allocated. The questions which may be found in the allocation questionnaire include; what the estimated length of the trial is, how many witnesses and expert witnesses there are required, what the parties think to which track should the case be allocated and whether it is necessary to have the allocation hearing, what the estimated costs of the trial are etc. Even at this stage it is always possible to try and settle the case without any need to proceed to the trial. Therefore there is an option in the allocation questionnaire to ask the court to stay the proceedings in order for the parties to use other form of alternative dispute resolution to avoid going to the trial. Normal period of stay is one month. If the parties do not agree, the proceedings continue and will be referred for allocation. It is always possible to apply for extension to stay the proceedings. Parties must file the allocation questionnaire on time and they are sometimes required to also file the estimate of costs.
Allocation of cases to various tracks
If the court cannot make a decision in relation to allocating the case to a particular track, it has the power to require further information from the parties or it can decide to hold an allocation hearing. It is necessary for the court to notify the parties of this hearing at least seven days in advance. The claimant has to pay an allocation fee after the allocation questionnaire was filed. Failure to pay such fee may result in the claim being struck out. After the court makes the decision it sends the allocation notice to the parties. The court decides to which track it allocates the case according to how much the case is worth. As in accordance with Civil Procedure Rules, the court has to consider some other factors in order to decide how to allocate the case, these include: financial value of the claim, the nature of the remedy being sought, complexity of the case, the number of the parties involved, the value of any counterclaim, the amount of oral evidence, the circumstances and views of the parties, the importance of the claim to other persons.
For more information on:
- Small claims track
- Fast track
- The multi-track