"The Jackson Reforms" look set to continue to change the litigation landscape in 2015. Head of Dispute Resolution, Stephen Eccles, looks at what to expect.
There have been key changes in the rules of litigation over the last couple of years and new rules and procedures are currently working through the civil justice system. These have become known as “The Jackson Reforms”
It is the development of these new rules and procedures that represent change anticipated through 2015.
THE MOST RELEVANT CHANGES TO COMMERCIAL DISPUTES ARE:
- the expansion of permitted contingency fee arrangements
- increases to damages where a Defendant fails to beat a Claimant’s settlement offer
- cost budgeting
The rules of procedure (CPR) have been amended to promote the avoidance of delay and a saving of legal costs. There will be a much stricter approach to 'parties to litigation' complying with each and every part of Court Orders made in the management of cases with stricter deadlines and timetables.
The reforms have resulted in a vast increase in applications to the Court, an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the reforms. This comes at a time when the County Court system is suffering considerable difficulties in dealing with existing workloads and no additional resources for the County Court system, indeed rather the reverse.
We do not expect to see any increase in the funding of the Court system save through the increase in Court fees. We expect to see Court fees increase significantly both for issue of proceedings, and all applications, including Trial fees. The government’s aim is to make the Court system self-funding through the Court fee structure. It is a particular worry that the Court system will not be able to cope and we are seeing considerable delays in the Court system in obtaining dates for hearing of applications and Trials.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
There continues to be considerable emphasis by the Judiciary on attempting to settle disputes without recourse to the Courts via alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which includes both arbitration and mediation.
The Judiciary have made it clear that parties unreasonably refusing to mediate may well face cost sanctions. Cost sanctions are the primary method by which the Judiciary will seek to limit litigation and encourage parties to use ADR.
It is more important than ever to obtain legal advice at a very early stage in dispute resolution. If litigation is commenced, the combination of cost sanctions and the Jackson Reforms mean that a case must be ready to proceed to Trial on issue. Therefore we expect to see much more pre-action correspondence and fewer issued cases as prudent litigators will not wish to issue proceedings prematurely.
Where proceedings are issued, we expect to see much more detailed timetabling by the Courts which, combined with the much greater sanctions available for non-compliance with Orders, will substantially discourage the issue of speculative or under prepared litigation cases.
I will keep you up to date on developments with these reforms in the monthly Pinney Talfourd newsletter. If you are not already on our mailing list you can subscribe here.
In the meantime, if you need to discuss what these reforms will mean for any of your current disputes please contact me
This article was written by Stephen Eccles, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at February 2015.