What is a pre-trial checklist?
A pre-trial checklist (also known as a listing questionnaire) is a court form which the parties to a fast track or multi track claim usually need to complete following the expiry of the date upon which the last of the directions should have been complied with.
The pre-trial checklist enables the court to ascertain whether the directions have been complied with and whether any further directions are needed. It also allows the court to gauge what evidence is likely be put forward at the trial and can thus ensure an appropriate level of court resources are available.
A pre-trial checklist is a standard court form. Form N170 should be used, a copy of which can be obtained from the court or found on the Court Service’s website.
Ordinarily a pre-trial checklist will be completed by a solicitor acting on behalf of a party.
At the top left hand side of the form, you should insert your name and confirm your status by deleting the appropriate words.
At the top right hand side of the form, the name of the court in which the claim is proceeding and the claim number should be stated. The last date for filing the pre-trial checklist and the trial date(s) or trial period (often referred to as the ‘trial window’) should also be listed.
Part A deals with compliance with the directions which will have previously been given by the court. You should confirm:
- whether those directions have been complied with. If they have not, state which directions have not been complied with and the date by which this will be done;
- whether any additional directions are required. If additional directions are required, you should attach an application notice, a draft order and the appropriate court fee to the pre-trial checklist. You should also confirm whether or not these have been agreed with the other party.
Part B of the pre-trial checklist deals with witnesses. You should:
- state how many witnesses will be giving evidence on your behalf at the trial;
- ask the court to avoid, where possible, certain dates for the trial if the trial date has not yet been fixed. If you or one of your witnesses is unable to attend court on a certain date, state who they are and the reason why they are unable to attend court. The fact a you have asked the court to avoid a particular date does not mean it will do so, every effort, therefore should be taken to ensure that you and your witnesses can attend. It may be sometimes necessary to serve a witness summons on a witness compelling them to attend court;
- state whether you or any of your witnesses require special facilities or arrangements at the court, eg, because of a disability. You should also confirm whether you will be providing an interpreter for any of your witnesses.
Part C of the pre-trial checklist deals with experts. Expert evidence may be required where the case involves specialist knowledge, eg, the expert evidence of a doctor may be required in a personal injury claim or the expert evidence of a surveyor in a construction claim.
If you wish to rely on expert evidence or call an expert to give oral evidence at trial, you need to apply to the court for permission.
On the form you should:
- set out the name of the expert, his field of expertise, confirm whether or not he is a joint expert (an expert jointly instructed by all parties to the claim), whether or not his report has been agreed with the other party or parties and whether or not permission has been given for him to give oral evidence at the trial;
- confirm whether there has been discussion between experts and whether the experts have signed a joint statement. This will only be relevant where each party has obtained their own expert evidence;
- ask the court to avoid, where possible, certain dates upon which their expert is unable to attend court, if the trial date has not been fixed. If you do want to avoid a certain date, list the name of the expert and the reason they are unable to attend court.
Part D of the pre-trial checklist deals with legal representation. You need to:
- confirm whether you will present the case at trial by yourself or whether a solicitor or a barrister (counsel) will represent you;
- ask the court to avoid, where possible, certain dates upon which the person who is to representing you is unable to attend court, if the trial date has not been fixed. Name the person who is representing you and say why they are unable to attend court on a particular day.
Part E of the pre-trial checklist deals with the trial itself. You should:
- confirm whether the estimate of the time needed for trial has changed. By this stage, the court will have issued an order stating the current time estimate. If the time estimate has changed, provide a revised time estimate and confirm whether or not this revised time estimate has been agreed with the other party or parties;
- attach to the pre-trial checklist a ‘timetable for trial’ if you are involved in a multi track case. This sets out how long each element of the trial (eg, opening and closing speeches and the cross examination of witnesses and experts) is likely to take. State whether the timetable for trial has been agreed with the other party or parties;
- confirm whether you are prepared to accept less than three weeks notice of the trial date if yours is a fast track case.
Part F consists of a document and fee checklist. You need to:
- indicate which documents you are attaching to the pre-trial checklist and whether you are attaching a listing fee (this is payable by the claimant);
- attach an estimate of your costs to date and an estimate of your likely overall costs if you are legally represented. There are specific and lengthy rules dealing with how these should be prepared.
You or your lawyer should sign the pre-trial checklist and date it. The contact details of you or your lawyer should be set out. The pre-trial checklist should then be sent to the court in which the case is proceeding, together with the listing fee where required.
There is no requirement that the parties exchange copies of their pre-trial checklists with each other. However, they are encouraged to do so to avoid the court being given conflicting or incomplete information.