The Claims Process – Costs and Case Management Conference and Directions
In the previous article in this mini series we looked at the completion of the Directions Questionnaire. In this article, we look at the next step in the claims process: the Costs and Case Management Conference and Directions.
A Case Management Conference (CMC) is a hearing before the Court, which all parties to the litigation attend. The CMC helps to prepare the parties for trial and is used by the Court to identify what the real issues in dispute between the parties are and to consider whether these issues can be narrowed before trial.
A CMC will not be ordered in every case. The Court has discretion and may in some cases approve the parties agreed directions, (which will have been filed with the directions questionnaire) without the need for a CMC.
At a CMC the court can exercise its broad case management powers to give directions as to future conduct of the case and to set a timetable for the case leading up to trial.
Where costs management applies to a case this will usually be dealt with at the same hearing, which may be referred to as a costs and case management conference (CCMC). Sometimes, the court may direct a separate costs management hearing. Costs management applies to cases allocated to the multi-track (with some exceptions). Allocation of case to track was dealt with in our previous article in this series.
The claimant should prepare a case summary to assist the court at a CMC/CCMC. This should set out:
- a brief chronology of the claim;
- the issues of fact that are agreed or in dispute; and
- the evidence needed to decide the issues in dispute.
Taking the elements of a CMC/CCMC in turn:
Case Management and Directions
Our previous articles in this series have explained the Court’s overriding objective. The overriding objective seeks to ensure that parties to litigation are dealt with fairly, that that cases proceed swiftly in the most cost-efficient way possible and that the system can be easily understood by those that use it.
In light of the overriding objective, at a CMC/CCMC the Court will test the parties on matters such as:
- The stage the parties have reached in the litigation
- The parties compliance with any previous Court Orders and what the parties consider to be suitable directions for future stages of the litigation.
- How much the parties estimate the litigation is likely to cost and how proportionate this is to what is in dispute.
- The suitability of the case for settlement.
At a CMC/CCMC the Court has great scope to enquire into the details of the case and parties should be particularly mindful that the court can narrow the issues in a claim, order summary judgment or strike out of the claim or defence.
Parties should be prepared for the case to be strongly managed by the court and ensure that they have considered all possible relevant issues in advance of the CMC/CCMC.
As set out above at the CMC/CCMC the Court will give directions which are essentially a timetable for the future conduct of the case.
The CMC/CCMC presents the parties with an opportunity to persuade the court as to how they would like the case to be managed. If the Parties have fully and properly completed the directions questionnaire and have made realistic proposals for directions, then the Court is likely to agree that the Parties proposals are suitable for the case.
Some of the usual directions which will be set at a CMC/CCMC will deal with:
- the disclosure of documents
- a timeframe for the exchange of witness statements
- the appointment of experts
- whether a trial date or a trial window can be fixed
- who should hear the trial
- possibly, a time estimate and timetable for the trial. However, this may be dealt with subsequently, at the Pre-trial review (we deal with the Pre-trail review in a later article in this series)
Costs management applies to cases allocated to the multi-track (with some exceptions).
Where costs management applies, the court also manages the costs which the Parties are able to recover, so as to further the overriding objective of dealing with cases justly and at proportionate cost.
There are four elements to costs management:
- The parties prepare and exchange budgets and, if necessary, as the case proceeds, amended budgets.
- The court states the extent to which those budgets are approved.
- The court manages the case so that it proceeds within the approved budgets.
- At the end of the litigation, the recoverable costs of the winning party are assessed in accordance with the approved budget, and the Court will not depart from the approved budget unless satisfied that there is good reason to do so.
Costs management requires the parties to have a greater awareness and control over the recoverable costs of litigation.
A CCMC is an important step in the claims process and focuses the parties minds, by seeking to narrow the issues in dispute, setting down a timetable leading up to trial and managing the recoverable costs of the litigation.