Improvise. Adapt. Litigate – Why litigation is still an option for businesses in the wake of Coronavirus
Much has been made in recent days of the fact that there will be no new jury trials commencing in the Crown Court for the time being, that you could be forgiven for assuming that the whole judicial system is winding down.
In fact, the opposite is true. While criminal trials requiring juries are rightly being put on hold to enforce the Government’s social distancing advice, the civil courts have put in place new measures to try and limit the disruption being caused by Coronavirus.
In particular, the Courts have acted swiftly implemented a new Protocol regarding Remote Hearings to enable trials to be held remotely, through use of video conferencing applications such as Skype for Business or BT MeetMe, or simply using telephone conferencing, so that the Court’s schedules are disrupted as little as possible.
Indeed, the new procedure has already seen resounding success with the Court of Protection conducting a 5 day hearing via video link, and over 500 audio hearings completed.
With judges being encouraged to embrace the new technology and conduct hearings where possible, there is a clear intention for Courts to continue with business as usual throughout the current pandemic.
While the Courts are open, and conducting business as usual, clients should also remember that before issuing any claim they will need to act in accordance with the Practice Direction for Pre-Action Conduct, or a relevant Pre-Action Protocol, or face a potential adverse costs order for issuing a claim too quickly.
This typically means that, before issuing a claim, parties will have to engage in pre-action discussions and clearly set out their respective positions in the dispute. Potential claimants are required to allow at least 14 days to 30 days for simple claims, and up to three months for more complex claims, for the other party to respond to a letter before action.
With this in mind, clients should not delay in engaging in pre-action discussions as soon as a dispute arises.
In the current climate, some litigation may be sensitive and potential claimants will not want to be seen to be taking advantage of the crisis. Clients should bear in mind though, that they are not obliged to issue proceedings on the expiry of the time period set out in their letters before action.
Putting in the leg work now will prevent delays further down the line if issuing proceedings becomes the only option after pre-action negotiations have failed and may actually serve to resolve the dispute more quickly if negotiations are successful.
Our Dispute Resolution team have a wealth of experience dealing with a range of commercial disputes including debt recovery, commercial property disputes and general contractual disputes. If you have a dispute you would like to discuss with us, please contact William Angas, Gail Morris, Laura Sutton or Ben Ashworth.
The content of this webpage is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. PDT Solicitors LLP accepts no responsibility for the content of any third party website to which this webpage refers.