There are some important changes to the procedure in civil cases which mainly burst into action on 6 April 2017. The Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2017 (SI 2017/95) are to be cursed or thanked, as the case may be.
I previewed the most impacting procedural change in my 8 December 2016 post Civil Hearing Fee Refunds Scrapped. The new rules cater for the change with this one coming in to force on 8 March 2017. The hearing fee is now called the trial fee. It will become payable by whoever is bringing the claim (or by the defendant if the claim has been knocked out and the case is going ahead on a counterclaim only). And it will be payable later in the case which will generally be by four weeks before the trial date. That's good. What isn't so good is that if the case settles in the run up to the trial, no part of the trial fee will be refundable as is presently the position. So you might be saying to your opponent something like -
"Be sensible. I am just about to pay the trial fee to the court. If you are going to settle with me, do it now. That's because once the fee has been paid, I won't get any of it back from the court should there be a later settlement and the trial be avoided. This being so, I will have to charge you up for the trial fee as well."
If the trial fee is not paid on time - and the court will notify you of the date for payment - the claim will be automatically struck out and you will have to pay the costs of the other side, unless the court orders otherwise. No period of grace and no reminder. It will be open to you to apply to the court for forgiveness and for the claim to be reinstated on condition you pay up or obtain remission (help with the fee). You certainly would not be able to bank on the success of such an application.
The new scheme for trial fees will NOT apply where before 6 March 2017 the court has notified to you the date of the trial or a trial window (the period during which the trial will take place).
Other changes which are somewhat technical and may send you to sleep unless you are a lawyer (or married to one in which event they will certainly send you to sleep)-
- the pilot scheme for legal advisers (barristers or solicitors) to deal with some of the more straightforward court box work is made permanent and tweaked.
- where costs budgeting applies in multi-track cases, the court is empowered on a detailed assessment to cut down the costs which were incurred before a costs management order was made notwithstanding that no point was taken on them at the costs management conference and the court can say nasty things about how high they are even at any case management conference, whether or not it makes a costs management order, and what is said can be taken into account on a detailed assessment.
- if a case which started its life on the portal is later allocated to the multi-track, the costs will not be limited to fixed costs.
You can wake up now.