High Court judge rejects defendant’s application to extend hearing

A High Court judge has blocked a defendant’s application to have their case moved out of the shorter trial scheme, one of the few times a judge has intervened in such a request.

In the case, Source Vagabond System Ltd, a manufacturer of army equipment, contends that the defendant, Excel-Eucan Ltd, is in repudiatory breach of a patent licence.

Defending the claim, Excel-Eucan Ltd argued that all the facts of the case could not be heard within the period allowed by the shorter trial scheme.

Introduced in October 2015, the aim of the shorter trial scheme is to achieve faster and earlier resolutions for businesses in a bid to keep costs reasonable and proportionate. This means cases are case managed by docketed judges with the aim of reaching trial within approximately 10 months of the issue of proceedings and judgment within six weeks thereafter.

But Excel-Eucan Ltd said the complexity of the case and the need for disclosure meant that the estimated length of the trial was likely to go over the stipulated four days allowed by the scheme, to six days or more.

His Honour Judge Pearce, however, did not share the defendant’s doubts.

Rejecting the application, the judge said the issues were “simple enough” to be heard within four days.

“It is of course always possible that developing issues may mean that that no longer remains the case in the future but that will be a matter for consideration in due course,” said the judge.

“If I anticipated more strongly that it was unlikely to be suitable to remain in the shorter trial scheme in the future I would transfer it out now but for the moment as things stand it seems to me that that is unlikely.”

The judge added that the practice direction for the scheme requires simplicity and brevity in the statements of case, and the defence and counter claim here went a “little bit beyond” those bounds.

“That kind of complexity should not blind the court to the reality of what the shorter trial scheme is about which is whether the case can properly be contained within the trial estimate of no more than four days and whether it truly requires extensive disclosure and/or reliance upon extensive witness or expert evidence.”