CASE MANAGEMENT AFTER DENTON: DIRECTIONS AND COURT ORDERS SHOULD BE "REALISTIC AND ACHIEVABLE"
Most of the articles about the Denton case focus upon the relief from sanctions and “clarification” of the principles in Mitchell. However the Court of Appeal made it clear that part of the focus of case management should be to avoid default . This is done by making realistic directions at the outset.
WHAT WAS SAID IN DENTON: DIRECTIONS SHOULD BE “REALISTIC AND ACHIEVABLE”
44. We should also make clear that the culture of compliance that the new rules are
intended to promote requires that judges ensure that the directions that they give are
realistic and achievable. It is no use imposing a tight timetable that can be seen at the
outset to be unattainable. The court must have regard to the realities of litigation in
making orders in the first place. Judges should also have in mind, when making
directions, where the Rules provide for automatic sanctions in the case of default.
Likewise, the parties should be aware of these consequences when they are agreeing
directions. “Unless” orders should be reserved for situations in which they are truly
required: these are usually so as to enable the litigation to proceed efficiently and at
THE JACKSON REPORT SAID EXACTLY THE SAME THING
As Jackson L.J. made clear in his judgment the Jackson report said exactly the same thing.
““The conclusions to which I have come are as follows. First, the
courts should set realistic timetables for cases and not impossibly tough
timetables in order to give an impression of firmness.”
REALISTIC TIMETABLES AND COURT MANAGEMENT
I have heard anecdotes (but never experienced) of judges roughshod over proposed directions and timetables and giving directions that were unachievable (and which were in fact appealed). I suspect that sometimes the problem lies in a failure by the parties to explain the matter to the court. Case management should not, normally, be an adversarial stage of litigation. Useful guidance can be found in the Justice Guide to Case Management (This is aimed at litigants in person but provides a useful aide memoire for practitioners).
|At least 3 clear days before the case management conference the Claimant must file and send to the other party or parties preferably agreed and by email:
||The Claimant, in co-operation with the other party or parties, must help the judge by suggesting the directions that are thought to be needed.
Describe the directions you think the judge should give. It is better not to try drafting a directions order without qualified help.
A chronology is a list, with dates and in date order, of the events leading up to the claim.
A statement of the issues identifies the matters on which the parties disagree, briefly describing the position taken by each of the parties on each matter.
A case summary is a concise but complete overview of the whole case.
These documents should be discussed among the parties so that agreed versions can be given to the judge if possible.
The statement of issues and case summary, in particular, can be used in appropriate cases, to set out why a particular timetable is necessary. It is possible for this to be done without turning these documents into argumentative documents or skeleton arguments for one side.
It helps to know at the Case Management Stage (and I stress know not guess) :
- What is required for disclosure and how long this will take.
- Who is likely to be giving evidence.
- Are their witness statements prepared?
- If witness statements are ready how long will they take to complete?
- Are any of the witnesses likely to be abroad/unable to be reached in the relevant time period?
Experts deserve a special mention in relation to directions and timetables.
- Do you know exactly what experts are being instructed?
- Do those experts know the timetable?
- Do you have written confirmation from the experts as to how long they are likely to take to complete their report?
- Have the experts indicated that they need extra information? If so what and how long will it take to get it?
I am putting aside the experts who (regularly) appear to be attended conferences in the Bahamas.
Useful reading on experts and directions
- The guidance on instructing experts from “across the pond”.
- The judgment of Master Cook in Chambers -v- Buckingham (I know that this was pre-Denton, however there is little doubt that the same decision would be made even with the benefit of the clarification that Denton provided).