On 1 April 2013 wide-ranging changes in respect of the Civil Procedure Rules came into effect.
These changes were in the main the result of Lord Justice Jackson's independent review of the rules governing the costs of civil litigation.
The changes that came into effect on 1 April included the strengthening of the overriding objective to enable the courts to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost. Further details of the changes can be found here.
The main changes relate to the Court's case management powers. Significant changes have been made to the way in which the Court will deal with claims from the outset, with a particular focus on the first case management conference.
Whilst many will view these changes as adding to the initial costs incurred by those in High Court litigation, they are designed to result in an overall saving of costs.
Together with a number of new procedural requirements, of particular interest are changes to the rules on disclosure, expert evidence and costs budgeting.
Disclosure will now take place from a menu of options which are designed to allow the parties to agree a narrowing down of issues upon which disclosure need be given.
Expert evidence will only be allowed where it is proportionate. It will be focused on particular issues and experts will be heard together. The "hot-tubbing" of experts will allow the Court to hear from both experts on the same issue at the same time. In principle a good idea, but it may require a change in tactic as particular consideration will be required as to how a party's expert will fare in the face of questioning from opposing experts as well as the Court and counsel.
Detailed costs budgeting will be required in the majority of cases. A number of exceptions may apply (the Court will always retain discretion), most notably to claims in the commercial courts and those with a value in excess of £2m. Costs budgets will allow parties greater certainty as to the costs they will recover, or be required to pay out, at the conclusion of the litigation.
It is hoped this will allow greater certainty and save costs in the long run, although many practitioners are yet to be convinced the rules regarding costs budgets will not add a further level of bureaucracy and costs.
It is yet to be seen how these issues will be played out over the coming months although it is expected there will be a number of satellite hearings to explore the scope of the recent changes.