This bulletin outlines a number of important lessons that can be taken from judgments handed down by the court over the past year. It focuses on decisions that have particularly interesting or surprising implications for parties to litigation, rather than necessarily covering the most high-profile cases.

As well as these procedural decisions, there have of course also been a number of important judgments in 2007 dealing with substantive law issues. These include Douglas v Hello! and conjoined appeals [2007] UKHL 21 in which the House of Lords overhauled the law relating to the economic torts (click here for our e-bulletin dated 17 May 2007) and IFE v Goldman Sachs in which the Court of Appeal considered the ways in which investment banks and other financial institutions can effectively limit their liability (click here for our e-bulletin dated 1 August 2007).

In general terms, the judgments outlined below illustrate either potential missed opportunities, such as the possibility of pleading a claim for compound interest, or traps for the unwary, such as the danger of assuming that all correspondence written in the context of settlement negotiations will necessarily be without prejudice.

Click on any of these summaries for a more detailed briefing:

Lesson 1 – Consider pleading a claim for compound interest: the House of Lords has held that compound interest can in principle be claimed in restitution, debt, breach of contract and tort claims (Sempra Metals Ltd (formerly Metallgesellschaft Ltd) v Inland Revenue Commissioners and another [2007] UKHL 34)

Lesson 2 – Investigate potential claims before issuing proceedings: the court may strike out a claim as an abuse of process if the claimant is not in a position to identify properly the essence of the complaint (Nomura International Plc v Granada Group Limited and others [2007] EWHC 642 (Comm))

Lesson 3 – Decide at an early stage whether to challenge service and/or jurisdiction: failure to comply with strict procedural rules may result in waiver of the right to challenge (Hoddinott and others v Persimmon Homes (Wessex) Ltd [2007] EWCA Civ 1203)

Lesson 4 – Consider applying for details of insurance cover in appropriate cases: the court may order disclosure where there is a real basis for concern that an award might not be satisfied (Harcourt v FEF Griffin (Representative of Pegasus Gymnastics Club) and others [2007] EWHC 1500 (QB))

Lesson 5 – Take care in choosing experts and obtaining reports: the court may make permission to instruct a new expert conditional on disclosing earlier reports (Carruthers v MP Fireworks Ltd and another, February 2007, unreported)

Lesson 6 – Make it clear whether or not communications are intended to be "without prejudice": otherwise there is a risk the court will find they were intended to be on an open basis (English & American Insurance Co Ltd v Axa Re SA [2006] EWHC 3323 (Comm))

Lesson 7 – Provide accurate costs estimates and update them regularly: the court may reduce a costs award where the amount claimed is significantly higher than a costs estimate previously served (Douglas Tribe v Southdown Gliding Club Ltd and another [2007] EWHC 90080 (costs))

Lesson 8 – Do not be complacent in resisting a summary judgment application: the respondent must put forward sufficient evidence to satisfy the court that it has a real prospect of succeeding at trial (Korea National Insurance Corporation v Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty AG [2007] EWCA Civ 1066)

Lesson 9 – Think carefully before refusing to mediate: the court may penalise a party in costs even if it takes the view that any mediation would have been unlikely to succeed (Attorney General of Zambia v Meer Care & Desai (A Firm) and others [2007] EWHC 1540 (Ch))

Lesson 10 – Ensure all important terms are set out in a settlement agreement: failure to do so may result in the agreement being incomplete for uncertainty (Western Broadcasting Services v Seaga [2007] UKPC 19 and Brown v Rice and others [2007] EWHC 625 (Ch))