The case management conference (CMC) is an important hearing, and is held for the purposes of deciding what further steps should be taken in a case allocated to the multi-track. The CMC is needed to identify the issues in dispute, and for the judge to actively manage the case and make appropriate directions to the parties.
The court has extensive case management powers. A timetable for the steps which need to be taken will be fixed in order to deal with the case expeditiously.
The parties themselves (unless you are litigant in person) do not have to attend in person, however, your solicitor will attend on your behalf. The hearing can take place by telephone where the judge and the parties’ lawyers are connected by telephone for a conference call. It is vital that your lawyer is sufficiently prepared for the hearing, including understand the issues arising in the case. If they are not, and the hearing needs to be postponed – a wasted costs order can be made.
When does a CMC take place?
A CMC can occur at different stages of the proceedings including when the directions as to how the case is to progress; and later in proceedings when it is necessary to review the progress of the case, when further directions may be appropriate.
The court must give the parties at least three days’ notice of the CMC. In accordance with Practice Direction 29 to the Civil Procedure Rules, the court may consider several issues at the CMC, including whether:
- any amendments to the claim are required;
- any (and what) disclosure of documents is necessary;
- any expert evidence is required;
- any factual evidence should be disclosed;
- any arrangements are necessary for further clarification of the issues arising;
- it will be just and efficient to order a split trial, or a trial on the preliminary issues.
The court will also review the steps taken by the parties in the preparation of the case, particularly their compliance with any directions that the court has already given.
The parties must consider whether a case summary will be useful for the CMC. If a case summary is to be produced, this will be prepared by the claimant and approved by the other parties. It should generally be no longer than 500 words, and its aim is to assist the court to better understand the issues in the case and to make it easier for the court to deal with the issues.
Variation of directions
Sometimes, one of the parties may be dissatisfied with a direction given. In these circumstances, an application must be made as early as possible for the court to reconsider its decision – preferably with the agreement of the other parties. The court will give at least 3 days’ notice of a hearing where the judge will reconsider their decision and either confirm that decision – or make a different one.
Where there is a change in circumstances, the parties can apply for a variation of directions or for a direction to be set aside. The court can also set aside or vary directions given on its own initiative.
The parties can agree to extend some, but not all, of the dates and time limits set down in relation to the steps in preparing for trial, subject to a specified number.
Is a CMC always required?
No – a CMC can be vacated: the parties can agree appropriate directions for the management of the proceedings and submit agreed directions, or their respective proposals, to the court at least seven days before any case management conference. If the court approves agreed directions, or issues its own directions, the CMC date can be vacated and the parties notified.
Sanctions for non-compliance
It is vital for all parties to cooperate with the courts, and comply with directions given. If a party fails to comply with a direction, there may be serious consequences for the party in breach. It can lead to severe sanctions, including the striking out of a claim of defence, as well as severe costs consequences.