Civil Litigation - The Introduction of a Fourth Track

Following a long consultation that started in 2019, several changes to the Civil Procedural Rules (CPR) came into force on 1 October 2023. 

One of the most significant changes was the reform of the rules on how cases are managed by the Court. Since the introduction of the CPR in 2001, cases have been allocated into 3 tracks:

•    The small claims track - for cases with a value of not more than £10,000;
•    The fast track - for claims between £10,000 to £25,000; and
•    The multi-track - for cases over £25,000.

There will now be a new track called the ‘intermediate track’ for claims of more than £25,000, but less than £100,000. 

Where a claim is between £25,000 - £100,000, it will be further subdivided into different bands (bands 1 to 4). The banding will be based on the complexity of the case and factors such as:

•    the value of the claim (and any counterclaim); 
•    the nature of the remedy sought; and 
•    the number of likely parties involved. 

An example of a matter that would be a band 1 claim might be a defended debt claim where there is only one issue and the trial was likely take a day or less. On the other hand, a property, building or employer liability dispute would probably fall under band 4, as these are often some of the most complex claims. Here the trial could last up to the three-day maximum allowed and there would be serious issues of fact/law to be considered. 

Regardless of what intermediate band a claim is placed in, the final hearing should last no more than 3 days. There are also limits on how many experts each party can have (no more than 2 each).  

The reasoning behind the change is to try and build on the overriding objective of the CPR – to deal with claims justly and at a proportionate (reasonable) cost. 

Introduced at the same time as the new track is an extension to claims that are subject to fixed costs. This is referred to as the fixed recoverable cost (FRC) rules. The FRC will apply to claims up to a value of £100,000 (excluding any claims on the multi-track). Costs that a successful party can recover will be pre-determined based on the complexity band. 

You may have noted that the limit of £25,000 for a claim to be put into the multi-track has not been increased (yet) but it is likely that only a handful of exceptional sub-£100,000 claims will remain in this track. The exceptions might include cases involving mesothelioma/asbestos, professional negligence, complex personal injuries (such as clinical negligence), actions against the police, child sexual abuse and intellectual property claims. 

If you want more detail about the changes then the new rules can be found in the Civil Procedure (Amendment No.2 & 3) Rules 2023.

Article written by Seamus Ryan