REALISTIC TIME ESTIMATES: THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING THIS RIGHT
There is a short passage in Barrowfen Properties Ltd v Hambros Investments Ltd & Anor  EWHC 2548 (Ch) where Chief Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Briggs makes it clear that an application had been given an inadequate time estimate.
The applicants made an application for an injunction to restrain the respondent from presenting a winding up petition.
THE TIME ESTIMATE
“When listing for the half day hearing the parties did not provide time for pre-reading. Upon receipt of skeleton arguments counsel asked that 1.5 hours to be allocated prior to the hearing for this purpose. The applications list was full making the requested time allocation impossible. Submissions took longer than counsel expected. At the end of submissions references were provided for the Court to consider before giving judgment. I therefore granted a further interim injunction to hold the ring until the handing down of this judgment.”
OTHER CASES IN RELATION TO TIME ESTIMATES
In Capita PLC -v- Darch  EWHC 1248 (Ch) Richard Spearman QC observed of the time estimate of one day:-
“I regret to say that I consider that the estimate of pre-reading time was wildly optimistic – the Skeleton Arguments alone, without appendixes, attachments or other working papers, ran to over 70 pages – and that the 1 day hearing estimate was entirely unrealistic.”
Similarly Mrs Justice May DBE in Myall -v- Ministry of Defence  EWHC 1752 observed that an application to amend and for a split trial was given a time estimate of half-an-hour
I start with the observation that half an hour over the telephone is generally the way that such applications are listed to be heard before the Queen’s Bench Masters; in the vast majority of case that is sufficient. In this particular case, however, with no criticism whatever of listing or of the learned Master, who is very experienced in this area, half an hour over the telephone was insufficient time, in my view, to permit the traversing of the details of the pleadings and the evidence so as to enable a sufficiently detailed appreciation of the case, the issues and the state of the evidence.
On the face of it, the Master was faced with a very late statement with insufficient explanation for the full extent of the delay together with an apparently contingent amendment. Allowing in the statement and permitting the amendment would, on the Claimant’s own case going into that application, have necessitated moving the trial window. On top of that there was an application for a split trial, also made very late, based on new medical treatment options but without any medical evidence in support. It was, in short, an application made by the Claimant with sparse detail; as it turned out there were important gaps which needed to be augmented by lengthy argument in order for the whole picture to be seen.
STILL SEARCHING FOR GUIDANCE ON ACCURATE TIME ESTIMATES
This is something that has been mentioned on this blog several times.
- The judge may require time to pre-read the application (particularly if there are skeleton arguments). If this is the case it is prudent to put pre-reading time into the time estimate.
- Allow a realistic time for both parties to put their case (there is a danger that an applicant thinks their own case is so obviously righteous than the respondent can have nothing to say – this may look unrealistic 3 witness statements and 2 skeleton arguments later).
- The judge will have to consider the matter and give a judgment.
- There will be arguments about costs afterwards (sometimes these can take longer than the original application).