The question of how case management deadlines can be extended has become more significant in light of the court’s strict approach to breaches of rules and court orders following the Jackson reforms and the Court of Appeal’s decision in Mitchell (see post). In particular, the decision in M A Lloyd v PPC  EWHC 41 (QB) (see post) highlighted the problem that deadlines for witness statements cannot be extended save by court order. That is the combined effect of CPR 3.8(3), which provides that time cannot be extended by agreement where a rule, practice direction or court order “specifies the consequences of failure to comply”, and CPR 32.10, which provides that where a party fails to serve a witness statement in time the witness may not be called to give oral evidence at trial unless the court gives permission. The same is likely to apply to certain other procedural deadlines, including expert reports.
This has led to courts being inundated with formal applications for extensions of time. To relieve the burden on court resources, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee has agreed an amendment to CPR 3.8 which will allow parties to agree extensions of time in writing for up to 28 days, without the need for court approval, provided that any such extension does not put a hearing at risk. The new rule will apply from 5 June.