The multi-track is generally for claims in excess of £25,000. The procedures are similar to those in the fast track and the person who loses generally has to pay the winner’s costs. Multi-track cases may also be heard in the High Court.
Before the hearing
There is no standard procedure for multi-track cases. Each claim will be managed by a judge according to its individual needs. The judge is likely to give you directions for disclosure and inspection. The judge may hold one or more case management conferences. These are informal meetings involving all the parties and the judge to review the progress of a case and to make orders regarding any necessary further steps.
If any aspect of the claim or defence is not clear, you can ask for additional information or clarification. You should first write to the defendant with your request, asking for a response within a specified reasonable time period. If you do not get a response, you can apply to the court for an order to give the information. If you make the request in a letter, the letter should not also deal with other matters.
Disclosure means telling the other party about any documents you have or have had in your possession that you are required to disclose. The court may order standard disclosure or it may direct that no disclosure take place or it may specify the documents, or classes of documents, which the parties must disclose. Standard disclosure means you must disclose documents which support, undermine or oppose your claim and those which support the defendant’s case. You must make a reasonable search for these documents.
Inspection is when you look at the documents on the other party’s disclosure list and then request copies of certain documents. You must provide each other with copies of documents if requested, on payment of copying charges. You do not have to show the defendant documents that are ‘privileged’. Usually these are documents created when you are planning litigation or because they are correspondence between you and your solicitor about your case.
The listing questionnaire
The court will send you the listing questionnaire and the notice of date for returning the listing questionnaire to court. The listing questionnaire will ask for information to help the court fix a date for trial, to confirm the estimated length of trial and to set a timetable for the trial itself.
When you complete and file the listing questionnaire, the court may order that there be a pre-trial review. This will help the judge decide on a timetable for the trial, who will give evidence and in what order, the content of the ‘trial bundle’ (papers required for trial) and the date it has to be delivered to the court, and the time to be allowed for the trial.
What happens at the hearing?
The hearing is normally in public. A judge will hear your claim. You may speak for yourself or be represented by a solicitor or barrister. You cannot be represented by any other representative, but the judge may allow you to be accompanied by a friend to take notes, quietly make suggestions and give advice (this is sometimes referred to as a ‘McKenzie friend’).
Witness statements must have been exchanged before the hearing for any witnesses to be called. Only evidence in the statement can be given unless the judge gives leave for other evidence to be given. Witnesses must normally be called in person.
At the end of the procedure, the judge may give his or her decision immediately or decide to give the decision later. After the trial, the court will send you an order (judgment), setting out the judge’s decision and any order for costs that was made.
Unlike small and fast track cases, costs in multi track trials are not subject to a fixed limit. At the end of the trial, the judge may summarily assess costs on the day or order a detailed assessment which will take place later. The judge can also order an initial amount to be paid on account of costs.
You must pay court fees unless you are entitled to fee exemption or you can show that paying the fee would cause undue hardship because of the exceptional circumstances of your case.
You must pay a fee to start your case. You must also pay a fee when your case is allocated, when you return the listing questionnaire and before the final hearing date. Other fees are payable if you make other applications to the court.
If your claim is dealt with under the fast track and you win your claim, you will normally be entitled to have some of your costs (including costs of legal representation) paid by the defendant. Equally, if you lose your claim, you will normally be ordered to pay some of the other side’s costs. In each case, this will be set out in a costs order.
You need to be aware that you could have to pay all or some of the other side’s costs if you lose. In a multi-track case, these costs could be significant, and you should factor this in when deciding whether or not to proceed with your claim.