The multi-track is intended for more complex and important cases. Any case not allocated to either the small claims track or fast track will be dealt with on the muti-track, and so will any case commenced using the alternative procedure in the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, Part 8 and most specialist proceedings. The courts are expected to adopt a flexible approach to ensure that each case is dealt with in an appropriate way.
If the parties in a case likely to be allocated to the multi-track agree proposals for the management of the case and the court considers that the proposals are suitable, the court may simply approve them without the need for a directions hearing.
Normally the court has discretion whether to call a case management conference. However, where it is contemplated that an order may be made either for the evidence on a particular issue to be given by a single expert, or that an assessor should be appointed, a case management conference must be held unless the parties have consented to the order in writing.
If a party has a legal representative, someone familiar with the case must attend the case management conference. The person attending will have to be the fee-earner concerned, or someone who is fully familiar with the file, the issues and the proposed evidence. Where the inadequacy of the person attending or his instructions leads to the adjournment of the hearing, it will be normal for a wasted costs order to be made. In the Commercial court, case management conferences should be attended on behalf of each party both by the fee earner with the conduct of the case and by at least one of the advocates retained. This is because case management conferences in the Commercial Court are regarded as particularly significant stages in the litigation, and are conducted by a judge who will usually form part of the two-judge team that will manage the case, one of whom will usually subsequently be the trial judge.
The court may control the evidence to be adduced in the course of proceedings, which may involve excluding evidence that would otherwise be admissible, by giving directions as to:
The issues on which it requires evidence;
The nature of the evidence which it requires to decides those issues; and
The way in which the evidence is to be placed before the court.
In multi-track cases the appropriate time to consider most forms of interim relief, if possible, is the fast case management conference. Applications in multi-track cases must be made as early as possible so as to minimise the need to change the directions timetable, and that an application to vary a directions timetable laid down by the court must ordinarily be made within 14 days of service f the directions.
Directions will tell the parties when they must file their pre-trial check-lists. These may be dispensed with. Pre-trial checklists will be sent out to the parties by the court for completion and return by the date specified in the directions given when the court fixed the date or the period for trial. The specified date should be not less than eight weeks before the trial date or ‘window.’ The forms should be served by the court at least 14days before they must be returned. Each party is under an obligation to return a completed pre-trial checklist before the specified date, and the claimant is required to pay a non-refundable fee of £100 and a hearing fee of £1,000. These fees are payable even if pre-trial checklists are dispensed with.
If a pre-trial review is listed it is likely to take place about 8 to 10 weeks before trial. They are not held in all cases, but only in those that merit the additional hearing.
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