The quicker a dispute can be resolved the better.
Once proceedings are started, the court rules set out a number of steps that must be taken, before the case reaches trial. The court will set the time limits for each stage which include a case management conference, disclosure of documents, exchange of witness statements, experts reports and a pre-trial review. Occasionally an expedited trial may be ordered but they are not routine.
For less complex claims (up to £25,000) there is the well-established fast track procedure. If allocated to the fast track, you can usually expect the trial to take place within 30 weeks of the court giving directions. But there has been no other alternative for more complex commercial disputes, until recently.
It is worth noting that some courts are operating a Shorter Trials scheme.
Significantly this pilot scheme applies to courts in the Rolls Building in London which houses the High Court divisions and courts appropriate for business disputes. There has been a slow uptake for the scheme so far which started in October 2015, but the publication of a recent judgment reinforces that existing proceedings can be transferred into the scheme. That decision notes that the pilot is a response for there to be “shorter and earlier trials, at a reasonable and proportionate cost”. The scheme “is intended to involve tight control of the litigation process by the court, in order to resolve the dispute on a commercial timescale”.
Shorter means a trial within eight months of the case management conference and judgment handed down within six weeks of the trial. A reduced time frame inevitably means that the steps on the road to trial are not as extensive. There is limited disclosure, restricted expert evidence and a trial which lasts no more than four days (including reading time). Costs are also assessed summarily which removes the requirement for detailed assessment proceedings and costs management.
More details about the pilot are set out in a previous post – New shorter and flexible trial schemes.
Clearly the pilot may not be appropriate for every case. The scheme rules recognise this, listing a number of examples which may be not be suitable including cases which are likely to require extensive disclosure and/or reliance upon extensive witness or expert evidence.
But the pilot offers the option of an alternative path and quicker resolution for the right case.
If speed is a factor, you may want to consider this option.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Family Mosaic Home Ownership Ltd v Peer Real Estate Ltd  EWHC 257 (Ch)