December 22, 2011 Articles

Commercial Litigation in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's procedural rules, practice conventions, and public policy pressures give its litigation landscape important differences from that of the United States

by Gavin Foggo and Caroline Benham

While the United States and the United Kingdom (this article focuses on just England and Wales) both have common-law civil justice systems, their respective procedural rules, practice conventions, and public policy pressures (whether current or historical) give their litigation landscapes important differences.

The U.K. Civil Litigation Process
The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (as amended) set out the procedure for civil litigation in the United Kingdom. Their cornerstone is the overriding objective that all cases must be dealt with justly and proportionately to the amount of money at stake, the claim's importance, the complexity of the issues to be decided, and the relative financial positions of the parties.

There is a strong impetus on the early identification of the issues in dispute through pre-action correspondence, and the parties are encouraged to resolve their grievances at an early stage without the need for trial. A party may be penalized in costs for unreasonably refusing to engage in settlement discussions, and, at certain stages of the litigation, the parties are required to inform the court if any settlement discussions have taken place or are pending, although the content of any discussions remains confidential between the parties.

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