Trowers & Hamlins for claimant, Hogan Lovells for defendant
The launch of the Shorter Trials Scheme was reported in Weekly Update 36/15. This pilot scheme (which will run until 30th September 2017) is for commercial cases which do not require extensive disclosure or evidence (and there are no allegations of fraud). For such cases, a streamlined procedure should result in judgment within a year of starting proceedings. Different procedure rules will also apply – for example, disclosure will be limited to the documents on which a party relies plus particular documents requested by the other side. The costs budgeting rules will only apply if the parties agree.
This is the first case to discuss the scheme, an application having been made to transfer an action into it.
Birss J held that although the relevant practice direction for the scheme (PD51N) does not expressly say so, the court does have power to transfer an existing case into the STS (and to transfer a case out, if a case is started in the scheme). He noted that a transfer does not affect the court or division in which a case was begun, so, for example, a case commenced in the Chancery Division remains in that division after transfer. Applications to transfer must be made to a judge (and not, for example, a Chancery Master). Where reference is made to the scheme being suitable for "business cases" in the Chancery Division, the judge said that that should be construed in the widest sense and excludes only "purely private, non-commercial matters such as family property and family trusts".
The judge held that it was appropriate to order the transfer of this case. As for the procedure following transfer, he noted that allocation to a "designated" judge at the first CMC (or earlier) does not mean that only certain judges are designated to hear cases in the scheme. Since the trial date and pre-trial review will be fixed at the CMC, he directed the parties to liaise with Chancery Listing in advance of the CMC.