CIVIL PROCEDURE BACK TO BASICS 49: THE CASE SUMMARY: THE RULES, SOME GUIDANCE AND AN EXAMPLE
A search term arrived on this blog today “how do I prepare a case summary for a civil litigation case”. A Case Summary should be prepared in virtually every Multi Track case. Very little is written about it.
Practice Direction 29 – the Multi Track
(1) A case summary:
(a) should be designed to assist the court to understand and deal with the questions before it,
(b) should set out a brief chronology of the claim, the issues of fact which are agreed or in dispute and the evidence needed to decide them,
(c) should not normally exceed 500 words in length, and
(d) should be prepared by the claimant and agreed with the other parties if possible.”
they have to be:
Yet little guidance is available.
Some practitioners treat Case Summaries with profound suspicion. Others regard them as a marvellous vehicle for venting the splint “The dishonest claimant seeks ridiculous damages from the innocent defendant in this trumped up claim” (this is only a slight exaggeration). The only impact that such a summary will have is to lead the judge to doubt the drafter’s “equilibrium” (I am putting this kindly).
GUIDANCE FROM THE HANDBOOK FOR LITIGANTS IN PERSON
At 13.13 the guidance states:
“Some judges order a Case Summary to be prepared and filed. This is a brief statement of your case, hopefully on one side of A4; you do not need to give a detailed account. A good case summary will be non contentious and will set out the nature of the dispute and the issues that arise on the pleadings. Try and agree a case summary with your opponent and file it in court before the hearing so that the judge can read it and be up to speed with the case when the hearing begins.”
THE NEW LAW JOURNAL
There is an important article in New Law Journal from District Judge Nigel Law about his experience with case summaries in the county court. The case summaries he found were too long and rarely useful. This set me looking for examples of “good” case summaries. The search was fruitless. There is no doubt that the case summary is a humble, overlooked, document. I am now on the lookout for examples of “best practice”.
“The importance of the case summary, chronology, and schedule of issues cannot be overstated. The greatest compliment you can receive is for the judge to quote in his judgment from one or more of these documents.”
FURTHER GUIDANCE FROM THE DISTRICT JUDGE
District Judge Lord reminds practitioners that:
- A case summary should be a concise but complete overview of the whole case.
- It is designed so that the judge can quickly grasp the essential facts and matters in issue.
- Reading time is limited.
- Deliver the case summary in good time.
- Sending the case summary the same morning as the hearing is never helpful.
I did (as long ago as October 2015) ask if anyone wanted to volunteer examples. There was never any response.
KICKING OFF WITH A SIMPLE EXAMPLE: A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM
IN THE COUNTY COURT IN GALTRES Case No
MASTER RUPERT BOAR
(BY HIS FATHER AND LITIGATION FRIEND MR DENTON BOAR) Claimant
MR DAVID GORDON Defendant
- This action arises out of injuries that Rupert suffered on the 21st October 2014 when he was 10 years old.
THE DISPUTED FACTS
- Rupert’s case is that he was walking past the Defendant’s shop as the Defendant was using a bungee rope with metal hooks to close the shop shutters. The bungee rope that the Defendant was using flicked off the shutter and struck Rupert in the eye causing serious injury.
- The Defendant admits that Rupert suffered an injury however he is not aware of how the injury happened. He denies that he was using a bungee rope with hooks to close the shop shutters and that Rupert was injured in the way alleged.
(1) The Claimant’s case is that he was injured by a bungee rope operated by the Defendant.
(2) The Defendant’s case is that Rupert was injured some distance from his premises.
- THE ISSUES: LIABILITY
(1) How Rupert came to be injured.
(2) Whether the Defendant was negligent.
(3) Whether the Defendant’s negligence caused Rupert’s injuries.
- There is only one medical report, the Defendant has not sought to obtain his own report, nor has have any questions been put to the expert.
(1) There is no claim for special damage.
(2) There is no agreement in relation to general damages. (Any agreement would require approval from the Court in any event because Rupert is a minor).