Interim and Summary Judgment Applications
In our series of posts providing our Top Ten Tips on the various stages of a civil or commercial dispute, we have covered the Pre Action stage of litigation, issuing and serving the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim and preparing a Defence and Counterclaim. You can find these posts on the LF Blog.
This article will focus on Interim Applications and Summary Judgment which are relevant at varying stages in the claims process depending on the facts and issues of the individual case.
An Interim Application is where a party in a dispute seeks an order or directions before the trial or substantive hearing of the case takes place. It allows a party to ask the Court for a specific order or remedy that addresses an immediate issue or concern relating to the dispute. Interim Applications are designed to prevent irreparable harm or provide urgent relief until the final resolution of the case is reached. Interim Applications can cover a wide range of issues, such as seeking an injunction to prevent certain actions, obtaining access to essential documents or freezing assets. They can be particularly useful where waiting for the full trial to conclude could cause substantial damage or prejudice to one of the parties.
The process of making an Interim Application involves submitting an application notice together with a supporting witness statement. Unless the other party to the dispute consents to the application, the Court will usually list the application for a hearing at which it will consider the evidence presented and hear legal arguments from both parties deciding whether or not to grant the order sought by way of the application.
An application for Summary Judgment is different to an Interim Application but similarly can be made before the outcome of the trial. The significant difference to an Interim Application is that a Summary Judgment application allows a Court to dispose of a case quickly and efficiently without a full trial when there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute. This means that if one party believes that the essential facts of the case are clear and undisputed, they can apply for Summary Judgment to have the case decided in their favour without the need for a trial.
To succeed with an application for Summary Judgment, the applicant must show that there is no realistic prospect that the other side will be able to succeed at trial. In other words, if there is no genuine dispute about the key facts and the law is clear on one side, the Court can grant Summary Judgment. However, if there is any doubt or disagreement over the facts or the interpretation of the law, the Court will dismiss the application.
Whilst an application for Summary Judgment can be a cost-effective way to resolve cases without the need for a lengthy trial, such an application will usually only be recommended by your solicitor where the facts and legal issues are clear-cut and there is little room for dispute. Cases with disputed facts are usually not suitable for Summary Judgment, as a full trial is necessary to fully examine the evidence and arguments presented by both sides. So, if your case turns largely on “he said, she said” witness evidence, the case is not suitable for Summary Judgment.
Here are our Top Ten Tips for anyone with a potential or ongoing claim which may require an Interim Application or an application for Summary Judgment:
1. Seek Legal Advice: Before diving into legal procedures, we recommend seeking advice from one of our experienced dispute management lawyers. At Lupton Fawcett, our lawyers will be able to guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions.
2. Understand Urgency and Irreparable Harm: Interim Applications are often granted when there is urgency or a risk of irreparable harm. You must demonstrate that waiting for a final decision would cause significant damage.
3. Supporting Evidence: Both Interim Applications and Summary Judgments require robust evidence to support your case. Collect documents, communications and witness statements that strengthen your position. Your solicitor will guide you on what is required and, in some circumstances, will instruct an expert barrister.
4. Court Rules: There are specific rules for every stage of litigation and Interim Applications and applications for Summary Judgment are no exception. Your solicitor will ensure that all documents and submissions comply with these rules, however it’s good to have an understanding of what is required by what date to ensure the rules are adhered to.
5. Clear Legal Argument: Your legal team will draft a compelling legal argument for your Interim Application or the application for Summary Judgment. It is essential to present your case concisely and persuasively. Make sure you have an open and transparent dialogue with your legal team so they can prepare a clear argument for you.
6. Address Counterarguments: Be prepared for the opposing party’s counter-arguments. Your legal team will help you anticipate and respond to those points effectively.
7. Long-Term Strategy: Remember that Interim Applications are part of a long term strategy. Consider how these steps align with your overall goals for the dispute resolution process.
8. Engage in Negotiations: Prior to seeking Summary Judgment, consider engaging in settlement negotiations to avoid further costs and to give the other side an opportunity to settle.. A favourable settlement can save time and resources. Once your application is prepared you will be in a position to point out the strengths of your case and the intention to make the application.
9. Substantial Costs: Do remember that both Interim Applications and Summary Judgment applications can put you at risk of paying substantial costs if your application is not successful.
10. Litigation Risk: If you are the party making the application and you lose it can make the other party more confident of a successful outcome at trial (even though this may not necessarily follow).
If you are in the midst of or are contemplating taking legal action in respect of a dispute, contact the Dispute Management team at Lupton Fawcett who will be happy to discuss your matter with you and advise you on the appropriate course of action to take.
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