John Habergham, Myton Law, Hull U.K.

The London Circuit Commercial Court has introduced a voluntary pilot scheme for capped costs litigation.

The court is the successor to the London Mercantile Court and is there to provide an alternative to the Commercial Court for lower value disputes for commercial claims such as carriage of goods, import and export of goods, commodities, insurance and re-insurance and banking.

This particular court is well liked by Myton Law. It has a system of electronic filing of documents which means that when we are in a jurisdiction race, we can quickly commence a claim (usually within an hour or so) and fix jurisdiction. And the quality of judges is good.

It is probably a reflection of our use of this court that John Habergham has been invited to sit on the Court User’s Committee. We learnt that we were the joint fourth highest user of the court.

The scheme is entirely voluntary with the facility to transfer mainstream matters into the scheme during the course of litigation (alternatively, if the parties or the judge wishes, the matter can be transferred out of the pilot scheme back into mainstream litigation) and is to last for two years.

It is appropriate for claims where the amount at issue is £250,000 or less and which will be resolved, ultimately, by a trial of two days or less.

The aim is to streamline the whole procedure and, therefore, lower the costs of litigation; to increase the certainty of what costs are recoverable during the proceedings; and to speed up the whole process.

It seeks to achieve this in a manner which is similar, for those of you who are familiar with them, to the London Maritime Arbitrator’s Association small claims procedures and intermediate claims procedures.

For example, statements of case are limited in length and must include concise summaries of the issues and must include detailed calculations of any sums sought to be recovered; the statements of case are to be supported by core documents and these documents can stand in place of witness evidence. There is no disclosure (unless the court orders otherwise); if witness statements are to be deployed, they are limited in number and they are limited in length. Unless the court orders otherwise, no expert evidence is permitted at the trial. If the court does order expert evidence, then it will be a single joint expert.

No costs budgets are required because the levels of recoverable costs are fixed. The pilot scheme contains a detailed list of the stages of litigation and what amounts are recoverable for each stage; and the overall costs limit recoverable by one party from another is £80,000 for the entire process.

Where one of our justices of the Supreme Court said, a few years ago, that the costs of litigation in this jurisdiction was becoming prohibitive, and could only be afforded by insurance companies or plc, any scheme such as this which provides access to high quality judiciary must be welcomed.

If you have any further queries regarding the capped costs pilot scheme, please contact John Habergham.