Civil Procedure - Adjournment

In the very recent case of Elliott Group Limited and Others v GECC UK (formerly GE Capital Corporation and others (EWHC 409 (TCC) 010) the courts have reconsidered the grounds for allowing parties to litigation an adjournment:-

(a) to deal with more extensive disclosure; and

(b) to participate in ADR

In Elliott Group Limited the applicants (E) sought an adjournment of their trial (which had been fixed for July 2010) against the respondents. E claimed that the trial should be adjourned and that there should be a new timetable which would lead up to a new trial in October 2010. E said that they had underestimated the amount of documents, particularly electronic material, which they were likely to have in their possession. They also said that a delay to the trial would allow a structured ADR to take place.

When considering an adjournment, Mr Justice Coulson said that the court must consider the overriding objective CPR 1.1 as to whether;-

the parties are on an equal footing the case is dealt with proportionately. expeditiously and fairly; and a proportionate and appropriate share of the court's resources is allocated to the case and as to whether it may be necessary to grant an applicant's request for an adjournment, Mr Justice Coulson said that the court must consider:

the parties' conduct and the reason for the delay; the extent to which the consequences of the delays can be overcome before the trial; the extent to which a fair trial may have been jeopardised by the delays; the consequences of an adjournment for the claimant, the defendant and the court Mr Justice Coulson said that it would require a very strong case for a trial to be adjourned merely because a party's disclosure was a more extensive task than was originally contemplated – no such case existed. Where a party is aware that disclosure is going to be an extensive exercise, any delays could be ameliorated by the devotion of greater resources to the task.

Further, the opportunity to allow parties to litigation to settle a case was not in itself a good enough reason for an adjournment of a fixed trial date. Once started, court proceedings have to be brought to a conclusion as expeditiously and cost-efficiently as possible. It is not cost efficient to delay a trial or the process leading up to it on the basis that if...

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