The Five Stages of Litigation
The Five Stages of Litigation are broadly the stages of legal disputes that are pursued through the Court process:
1. Pre action conduct
Before a claim is issued a party should wherever possible ensure that it has complied with the General Practice on Pre-Action Conduct (PDPAC) set out in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). The PDPAC sets out a number of requirements which should be met prior to a claim being issued.
These include sending a detailed letter before claim to the other party setting out thorough details of the case and giving opportunity for the other party to respond in detail.
One of the PDPAC requirements is to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve the dispute. It is important that it can be demonstrated that this has been properly considered and offered as a method of resolution prior to proceedings being issued.
It may be that a without prejudice offer is made to settle the dispute at this stage. This offer is not able to be used as evidence before the court or referred to until the end of the case. The offer may be made under Part 36 of the CPR.
2. Issuing the claim and exchanging statements of case
This is done by issuing a Claim Form, with an accompanying Particulars of Claim. This should clearly set out the claimant’s case and state the nature of the remedy claimed (such as payment of a specific sum, or for damages to be assessed, or for a declaration or other order).
The court will then issue the claim and then service of the claim form upon the defendant will need to take place. Service can be carried out by the court or by the party bringing the claim. Once the defendant is served with the claim, generally, the defendant has 14 days to file an Acknowledgement of Service and a further 14 days to file a Defence (though a limited extension can sometimes be agreed).
Once the Defence has been filed the courts will allocate the claim to the appropriate track.
3. Exchange of evidence
Once the claim has been allocated the court will provide directions to the parties. In the small and fast track these are usually standard with the fast track directions all taking place in the 30 weeks between issue and trial. If the claim has been allocated to the multi track then a case management conference will often take place and tailored directions will be provided.
The parties will be required to carry out disclosure, exchange witness statements during this time with timescales for these being set out by the court.
The court will provide a date for the trial and set it for the length of time which is sees fit for the trial to be heard. The parties will have been requested to provide a list of dates which are unsuitable prior to the courts providing a date for the hearing.
During the trial the court will hear legal submissions, witness evidence and expert evidence (if appropriate).
The court will often reserve judgment except in straight forward cases and the judgment will be given at a later date in an additional short hearing at court.
5. Post trial – Appeal and Enforcement
If you receive judgment in your favour the other party will be ordered to do/pay whatever the court has decided within a set period of time.
If you receive judgment against you then you will have the opportunity to appeal this decision. The time frame for appealing provided the right to appeal is granted is usually 14 days from the date of the decision.
The court also has the power to award costs which will be set out in the judgment.
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