Civil litigation and Civil Procedure Rules
Civil litigation is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) which came into effect in 1998. The CPR represent a single code of rules setting out how a case is to be conducted in the civil courts in England and Wales.
The CPR comprise rules, regulations and guidelines in relation to civil court procedure and have been updated numerous times over the years. They must be complied with by all parties to civil proceedings (though there are separate Criminal Procedure Rules related to criminal proceedings).
When applying the CPR, the courts must have regard to the parties’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, for instance, the Article 6 right to a fair trial. The courts must also comply with all other Convention rules unless a declaration of incompatibility is made. This is a declaration stating that legislation is incompatible with someone’s human rights.
CPR in Parts
The CPR are divided into 74 Parts, each with several Rules. There are also Practice Directions which relate to each Part. Practice Directions are divided into paragraphs and their purpose is to assist in clarification and better understanding of the main rules. The most important Parts of the CPR are:
Part 1 Rule 1
Rule 1 states that it is the overriding objective of the court to deal with cases justly. Dealing with cases justly means preserving equality of the parties to the dispute; saving expenses; dealing with cases proportionately bearing in mind the complexity and nature of the case; and ensuring that cases are dealt with fairly and expeditiously.
The court must also allot an appropriate share of resources to each case. This overriding objective has to be considered at all stages in proceedings, and when interpreting other Rules within the CPR. The Rules also impose an obligation on the parties and the state to help the court to further preserve overriding objective.
This sets out the court’s case management powers and service of court documents. It also includes recent amendments relating to cost budgeting rules, and collection and refunds of hearing fees.
CPR Part 6 and Part 7
This sets out the rules on how to start proceedings and explains what a claim form is and what it must contain. It includes detailed rules on the service of documents on another party.
Parts 10, 14, 15, 16
These set out how to start proceedings. Proceedings are started when a claim form is issued by the court on the request of the claimant, and served on the defendant. The claim form must contain a Particulars of Claim together with the remedy which is sought, and whether the claim is for money. The claim form (usually N1) must be filled in by the claimant, and sufficient copies for the defendant and the court must be attached. There is a fee which must be paid when the documentation is filed at court.
The claim form must be served on the defendant within 4 months of its issue (6 months if the service is to a foreign jurisdiction). A claim form is not complete without Particulars of Claim. This can be included within the claim form itself, or within a separate document and served together with the claim form. Particulars of Claim must be served within 14 days of the service of the claim form. Rules on service still apply under Rule 6. The Particulars of Claim must be verified and contain statement of truth (Part 22). The defendant must then respond to the claim form.
Parts 10, 12, 14, 15 and 16
The defendant must file an acknowledgement of service, or file or serve an admission (Part 14) or file a defence (Parts 15, 16). A defence must be filed 14 days after service of the Particulars of Claim. If the defendant files an acknowledgement of service the defence should follow 28 days after service of Particulars of Claim.
The defendant must state in the defence which allegations it does or does not admit, and which allegations it denies. The defence must also be verified by a statement of truth. The defendant can file a counterclaim against the Claimant (Part 20).
CPR Parts 26, 27, 28, 29
Once the defence is filed, the court starts active management of the case. Each party must file an allocation questionnaires and the court will then allocate the case to one of three ‘tracks’ as appropriate. These are the small claims track, fast track and multi-track.
Other Parts of the CPR regulate more specific procedures including disclosure and inspection of documents (Part 31), rules on evidence (Part 32), rules on expert evidence (Part 35) together with Experts’ Protocol, offers to settle (Part 36), and rules about costs (Part 44).
Pre-action protocols are formal guidelines on procedure to specific areas of law. They do not have the same status as the CPR but should be followed where applicable. These are:
- Personal injury including low value PI claims following road traffic accidents
- Clinical negligence
- Construction engineering disputes
- Professional negligence
- Judicial review
- Disease and illness
- Housing disrepair
- Possession claims based on rent arrears
The aim of pre-action protocols is to encourage early settlement of dispute without the need to go to a full court hearing. The parties are encouraged towards an early exchange of information so that the parties clearly understand the implications of the dispute. The objective is that in case that the proceedings in the court are unavoidable, litigation is carried out expeditiously.
If a pre-action protocol is not applicable, the CPR will apply.