Litigating during a Pandemic

You may have some ongoing litigation or you may have a dispute that you have made every attempt to resolve through other means leaving litigation now as the only and last resort.

If this is the case, a natural question will be: how can that litigation be pursued to a conclusion in the current climate with the social distancing rules in place?

We should mention that there are certain restrictions in place (currently until 30 June 2020) in respect of residential possession proceedings and the forfeiture of commercial properties on account of unpaid rent.

However, as far as general litigation is concerned, the answer is that the courts and litigation practitioners have adapted swiftly to ensure that the administration of justice is not unduly interrupted during the current pandemic. Temporary Practice Directions have been put in place and courts in different localities and different practice areas have issued their own temporary measures and guidance.

Some common themes are:

  1. Hearings will largely take place remotely (telephone/video conference) with the courts using Skype for Business;
  2. Judges will deal with applications without a hearing wherever possible;
  3. Parties can agree lengthier extensions of time than usual without involving the court;
  4. Parties are to e-file documents wherever possible (with court counters being closed);
  5. There are a reduced number of court buildings open which may hold face to face hearings but only in cases where the hearing is urgent and cannot take place by any remote method;
  6. The County Courts are operating a priority listing process which involves distinguishing between work that must be done and work that could be done.

SAS Daniels are experienced at dealing with hearings remotely (by both telephone and video conference).

Of course, pursuing litigation does not only involve court hearings. SAS Daniels LLP’s Dispute Resolution Team are fully operational from home and are conducting consultations by telephone and video conference with clients, barristers and experts.

In addition, we are working with Mediators who have quickly adapted to conducting Mediations remotely (the preferred method currently appearing to be by Zoom).

The question is: will this have an impact on how litigation is conducted once this is all over?

For further advice relating to the current regimes in the County Court and the High Court please contact Anna Barnes, Partner, on 0161 475 7655 or email [email protected].