A little noticed rule change requires parties to notify the Court if they settle their case, although it is not clear what sanctions the Court can actually impose if they fail to do so.
Telling the court that a case has settled or been discontinued
It has long been a curse of judicial sitting, particularly in the County Court that one prepares a case and then neither party attends. This may be followed by a letter or order at some later point. A new PD 38.3(5) [Discontinuance and Settlement] provides:
(5) Where a claim is discontinued or settled after a date or “window” has been fixed for the trial, the parties must ensure that the listing officer for the trial court is notified immediately.
(6) If an order is drawn up giving effect to the discontinuance or settlement, a copy of the sealed order should be filed with the listing officer.
The important aspects of the rule are:
• Although it appears in CPR 38 it is not confined to discontinuance and includes cases that settle. As such it is possible that practitioners may miss the wider significance of the rule which should be drawn to their attention as soon as possible.
• The trigger is any settlement after the trial date or window has been set. In most cases in the County Court the date will be contained in the direction order and will thus affect cases thereafter.
• The duty is to notify immediately.
• The duty falls on both parties.
This rule has been designed to improve the efficiency of the court and our practice, so time and resources are not wasted on ineffective cases. As with all rules, its effectiveness depends on a universal application of the rules so that it becomes ingrained in the profession that compliance is essential. It will be up to individual judges to decide what steps they intend to take in cases of non-compliance, but it is submitted that some explanation, either in person or in a witness statement will often be called for.