Case progression is applicable to certain categories of Circuit Court case. At present, it applies to the following:
- equity proceedings;
- proceedings on foot of a Succession Law Civil Bill;
- other proceedings, which include a claim for specific performance or for damages for breach of contract in respect of construction, alteration and repair of a building or other structure;
- other category of proceedings, having or involving any characteristics, designated by the President for the Circuit Court as proceedings which may be subject to case progression.
The purpose of case progression is to ensure that proceedings are prepared for trial in a manner which is just, expeditious and likely to minimise the costs of the proceedings and that the time and other resources of the court are employed optimally.
A case progression direction may be given by the County Registrar of his own motion at any listing or hearing or by the Judge at any listing or hearing. It may be given by the County Registrar or the Judge on application by motion of any party to the County Registrar or the Judge, as the case may be, on notice to the other party or parties.
A case progression direction may be given where the County Registrar or Judge is satisfied that it would be appropriate to do so, having regard to the complexity of the proceedings, the number of issues or parties, the likely volume of evidence or for other special reason, which is to be specified in the order.
Listing before County Registrar
Where a case progression direction is given, the proceedings shall be listed before the County Registrar for case progression. The County Registrar shall issue a summons, to the parties for a case progression hearing on such date as may be fixed by the County Registrar, giving at least 21 days’ notice to the parties.
The claimant or other party prosecuting the proceedings shall, not later than seven days prior to the hearing, file in an indexed book of pleadings exchanged between the parties and serve a copy of the index on the other party.
The purpose of case progression hearing is to ensure that the proceedings are prepared for trial in the manner set out above (just, expeditious, minimising costs and using resources optimally) and in particular that, as soon as may be in advance of the trial:
- the issues, whether as to fact or law, are defined as clearly, as precisely and as concisely, as possible;
- all pleadings, affidavits and statements of issues are served;
- any applications by notice for further particulars, accounts or documents and replies thereto, any admissions, or requests for admissions, notices to admit documents or facts, any affidavits made in pursuance of any notices to admit facts and any applications by letter for discovery and replies are made, served and delivered, as the case may be; and
- all applications for relief of an interlocutory nature intended to be made by any of the parties are made.
Each County Registrar shall maintain a record, which may be in electronic form, of all proceedings at case progression hearings before him. It is to include particulars of the date of issue of the summons to attend the hearing;
- the date of each hearing and adjournment;
- the reason for the adjournments;
- the name of the County Registrar; counsel, solicitors and parties;
- orders made and directions given at the hearing or on adjournment.
A copy of the record should be placed on the Court file and a further copy of same shall be made available to parties to the proceedings at their request.
At the case progression hearing, the County Registrar shall establish what steps remain to be taken to prepare the case for trial, fix a timetable for completion of the preparation of the case for trial and for that purpose, adopt any timetable proposed by the parties if satisfied that it is reasonable.
Case Management Directions
The County Registrar may make orders or give directions with respect to pleadings, exchange between the parties of statements of issues, identifying of issues in dispute between the parties, particulars, discovery, interrogatories, inspection of documents, inspection of real and personal property, commissions and examination of witnesses or otherwise, as may be necessary or expedient.
The County Registrar may, in respect of parties who are over age, receive and record on behalf of the Court undertakings to the Court, pending the trial or until further orders are made by the Court.
The County Registrar may make inquiries of the parties so as to ascertain the likely length of the trial and arrangements, if any, for witnesses, information and communications technology including video conferencing or other arrangements which require to be made for the trial.
The County Registrar may fix the time and mode of trial and a date for trial. He may also give directions as to service of a notice of trial and a notice to fix a date for trial. He may make any orders and give any directions in respect of arrangements for the trial, as he considers necessary.
The County Registrar may direct any expert witnesses to consult with each other within such time as may be specified for the purposes of identifying the issues in respect of which they are to give evidence, where possible, reaching agreement on the evidence they intend to give in respect of those issues, and considering any matter which the County Registrar may direct them to consider.
He may require that expert witnesses record in a memorandum to be jointly submitted to the County Registrar and delivered by them to the parties, particulars of the outcome of their consultations, within such time as the may be specified. The outcome is not to be binding on the parties.
Orders made or directions given at a case progression hearing shall be issued within 21 days of that hearing.
Progress and Adjournments
The County Registrar may adjourn a case progression hearing from time to time and from place to place as may be appropriate, in order to enable any order made or direction given to be complied with or act to be done or step to be taken in the proceedings to be done or so as to resume a case progression hearing after a matter has been referred to the Court.
The Judge or the County Registrar at a case progression hearing, may on application of any of the parties or on notice of his own motion or of his own motion, when he considers it appropriate having regard to all the circumstances, order that the proceedings or any issue therein be adjourned for such time, ordinarily not exceeding 28 days, as he considers appropriate and invite the parties to use mediation, conciliation, arbitration or other dispute resolution mechanism to settle and determine the proceedings or issue.
Where the above is done, the County Registrar or the Judge, as the case may be, may extend the time for compliance of any party with provisions of the Rules for compliance with any order. Further orders and directions may be given to facilitate the effective of ADR.
Where an order has been made above, the Judge or County Registrar, may list the proceedings from time to time for a report as to the extent of progress made in the use of the ADR process. Any party may, apply on notice to the other party, discharge the order.
Where the County Registrar concludes that there has been undue delay or default in complying with any order made or given by the Court or with any requirement of the Rules, he may list the matter for hearing at the next sitting of the Court.
Alternatively, the County Registrar, may cause the matter to be listed at the next sitting of the Court at any venue within the Circuit. He may furnish a report to the Court setting out the delay or default concerned in a prescribed form.
Solicitors appearing for each of the parties or where a party is not represented by a solicitor, the party himself, shall attend the case progression hearing and any adjournment. Where the County Registrar considers it necessary or desirable, he may direct that a party attend the hearing notwithstanding the fact that they may be represented by a solicitor.
Each representative of a party attending the case progression hearing shall ensure that he is sufficiently familiar with the proceedings and has authority from the party he represents, in order to deal with any matters that are likely to arise. Where a party is represented by counsel, counsel may attend the case progression hearing. The fees of counsel will be allowed in taxation and measurement of costs, only where the County Registrar so certifies.
The County Registrar may award costs incurred in connection with case progression management as between party and party. The County Registrar may tax and measure any such costs and may, where the Court so directs, tax and measure any solicitor and client costs incurred in connection with a case progression hearing.
Unless the County Registrar or Judge otherwise directs, the cost of an application by a party for a case progression direction shall be a cost in that case.
Where it appears to the County Registrar that a case progression hearing cannot conveniently proceed, or it appears to the Court that a case progression hearing could not conveniently proceed by reason of the failure of a party to be prepared or by reason of default of a party in complying with an order or direction of the County Registrar, the County Registrar or as may be, the Court may award costs against such party or may disallow the cost of such party, as the case may be.