Pre-Trial Review and Trial

The Pre-Trial Review (“PTR”) is the penultimate hearing that takes place before the Trial itself is heard. It is, in effect, a further case management conference at which a Judge has an opportunity to check if the parties will be ready for trial. If any of the parties will not be ready for trial, the Court will give directions requiring either or both parties to take the necessary steps in order to be ready for trial.

Prior to the PTR hearing, the parties will be required to file pre-trial checklists in order to inform the Court of the state of their preparation for trial. By way of the pre-trial checklist, the Court will find out what each party has already done to prepare for trial and what, if any, further steps each party proposes to take in order to be prepared for trial.

During the PTR the Court will address the following:

  • Consider whether all parties have complied with previous orders and directions;
    • Approve or amend as appropriate the trial timetable;
      • Give further case management directions as may be required; and
        • Fix a date and time for the trial.
        • Timetable for Trial

          The timetable for trial will set out the structure for the trial. The timetable will be drafted by the Claimant and sent to the other parties in an attempt to be agreed in advance of the PTR. It will then be sent to the Court for approval or amendment during the PTR. If the timetable is not agreed the Court will settle the disputed matters at the PTR but the trial judge will have the discretion to depart from the trial timetable at any stage.

          The Court has broad case management powers to sanction failure to comply with directions and these may be applied at the PTR. It is therefore important to comply with all directions set by the Court in the lead up to trial. If directions are not complied with, the Court may apply any of the following sanctions:

          • Adverse costs orders;
            • Striking out of a statement of case;
              • Summary judgment; or
                • A specified sanction from a previous Court order.
                • Trial

                  In England and Wales and particularly in higher value claims, it is primarily barristers that are instructed to represent the parties at trial.  Some specially qualified solicitors known as Solicitor Advocates are also authorised to conduct trials in the higher courts. At the trial, the barrister or solicitor advocate (together referred to as “the trial advocate”) will make oral submissions, cross-examine witnesses and draw the Judge’s attention to the relevant evidence and law. It is likely that the Judge allocated to hear the trial will have read the documents filed at Court (the trial bundle) prior to the start of the trial. This bundle of documents will include the parties’ statements of case e.g. Particulars of Claim and Defence, witness statements and any experts’ reports. The Judge will also have received Skeleton Arguments from the trial advocates. These set out each parties’ factual and legal case to assist the Judge with his understanding of each parties’ position.

                  Each party’s trial advocate is given the opportunity to present their arguments to the Judge and to call on the evidence of witnesses and experts in support of their respective cases. The witnesses and experts will usually then be cross-examined by the opposing trial advocate. The trial concludes with each trial advocate summarising the evidence and making their closing submissions. The Judge will then make his decision based on the evidence and arguments put before him.

                  Here are our Top Ten Tips on Pre-Trial review and Trial:

                  1. Be compliant: Ensure all previous Court Orders and directions have been complied with fully so that you are ready for the Pre-Trial Review;

                  2. Availability: Notify your solicitor of any dates when you will be unavailable for the trial; Court timetables are sacrosanct so you cannot expect to move a trial date once it is has been set.

                  3. Be prepared: Your legal advisors may need further information from you to assist the Court with listing the matter for trial so be available and ready to answer any questions they may have;

                  4. Witness Evidence: If you are a witness you might be questioned on areas of your witness statement, so make sure you are familiar with the content but do not over rehearse your evidence.

                  5. Deadlines: Liaise with your solicitor regarding any new deadlines following the PTR. It is of the utmost importance that deadlines set by the Court are met so do enquire about any new directions after the PTR and adhere to them strictly.

                  6. Submissions: Inform your legal advisors of anything that you would like to be included in your trial advocate’s submissions. Your advocate will need time to prepare so discuss this with your legal advisor well in advance of the trial.

                  7. Court Etiquette: Educate yourself on court etiquette before attending court and especially before providing oral evidence;

                  8. Be Clear and Concise: When giving evidence during cross-examination, answer the questions put to you in a clear voice and as concisely as possible. Only answer the question put to you and do not try to second guess where a line of questioning is going. If you do not understand a question, do not be afraid to say so. If you do not know the answer to a question, say that you do not know. If you guess, it could be damaging to your case.

                  9. Patience: Judgment is not always handed down immediately after the trial, it can take weeks after a complex trial before a Judge gives their decision on the matter. Look out for our next blog on Judgments for more information on this.

                  10. Expert Legal Advice: 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.

                  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.