Introduction

With effect from 9 April 2018, a new High Court Practice Direction (“HC75”) introduces a potential costs risk for parties to litigation. This Practice Direction applies to matters in the Non-Jury and Chancery lists where a trial date is sought by either party.

Background

As per the Practice Direction of 30 September 2010 (“HC14”), a Certificate of Readiness is necessary in order to apply for a hearing date. Counsel must sign such certificates (where Counsel is not briefed, they should be given by a solicitor, or by the applicant party, if unrepresented) and filed in the Central Office prior to seeking a date for hearing.

HC75 – Changes

What has changed however is that from 9 April 2018 “the party who desires to certify the proceedings as ready for trial and to seek a hearing date shall give a month’s notice to the other parties of the intention to do so. During that period the parties must consult so as to ensure accurate completion of the Certificate of Readiness, particularly insofar as the duration of the trial is concerned.”

Furthermore, “a failure to provide an accurate certificate particularly concerning the duration of the trial or to cooperate in the consultation process may result in costs consequences for the parties regardless of the result of the action.”

Implications

It remains to be seen if the potential for adverse cost consequences will be enough of a deterrent to ensure compliance with the High Court’s requirements when setting a case down for trial. This will ultimately depend on whether Judges use their discretion to award costs against a party who fails to comply with the practice direction.

We hope that HC75 will ultimately lead to better management of the Court lists, which would be to the benefit of practitioners and clients alike.