Kerry Underwood


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I am currently on my Autumn Tour on the extension of fixed costs as proposed by Lord Justice Jackson and associated matters until Monday 16 October and these will be my only courses on this subject until at least September 2018.

You can book here.

All of these matters are dealt with in my new book – Personal Injury Small Claims, Portals and Fixed Costs, running to three volumes and 1,300 pages and costing £80.00 and available from me here or Amazon here.

I have written elsewhere about the streamlined procedure in the new Intermediate Track – See THE NEW INTERMEDIATE TRACK: SCOPE AND PROCEDURE.

However, it is clear that the judiciary in England and Wales has made a deliberate policy decision strictly to limit the production of documents and skeleton arguments in virtually all cases.

The Commercial Court Pilot for claims up to £250,000.00 has a streamlined procedure and that itself reflects the Shorter Trial procedure.

Even where those special procedures do not apply, the courts are becoming increasingly critical of over-long skeleton arguments, core bundles and the “grossly excessive volume of documentation.”

This is a very welcome move and is in sharp contrast to the position in most states of the United States of America where document disclosure and inspection can cost a fortune and paralyse the judicial process.

Here are quotes from three recent decisions which give a flavour of the attitude of the courts here.


In ICAP Management Services Ltd v Berry & Anor [2017] EWHC 1321 (QB)

the court said:

“In advance of the hearing, I had received skeleton arguments from all three parties. Paragraph 12.3.8 of the Queen’s Bench Guide sets out the requirements for a skeleton argument. It provides that skeleton arguments should “not normally be longer than twenty pages of doubled spaced A4 paper”. Converting the skeleton arguments in this case to that format produces a skeleton argument from the claimant of 151 pages, plus 35 pages of appendices. For the first defendant the figure was 158 pages, plus eight pages of appendices; for the second defendant the figure was 51 pages, plus six pages of appendices. There was, in fact, no significant issue between the two defendants; the provision of two separate skeletons of such length making similar points was singularly unhelpful.

This was a case with a time estimate of six days including two days for pre-reading. The issue at stake was the enforcement of the terms of an employment contract for something less than three months. The overriding objective, set out in CPR 1.1(2), directs the court to ensure that cases are dealt with “justly and at proportionate cost”. That includes allotting to the case “an appropriate share of the court’s resources”. As I made clear to the parties at the commencement of this hearing, skeleton arguments of the length described above, in a case such as this, are inconsistent with that overriding objective. The skill in drafting a skeleton argument lies in the production of a concise outline of the essential elements of the argument which is to be developed orally in court.

It is evident that the authors of the skeletons in the present case were proceeding on the assumption that they could demand of the court such judicial time as they thought necessary. In that they were mistaken. The length of the written argument means that the vast bulk of such pre-reading time as was allowed had to be devoted to reading them, rather than underlying documents. In fact, in this case, the length and complexity of the written argument served to obfuscate the real issues in the case. In truth, these were not skeleton arguments at all; the arguments contained in these documents were fully fleshed out and dressed in much unnecessary finery.

I indicated at the beginning of these proceedings that I was minded to disallow a substantial part of the costs of preparing the skeleton arguments. I will, of course, hear submissions on that issue, but that remains my preliminary view.

In addition to the excessive skeleton arguments, I was presented with a grossly excessive volume of documentation. The primary bundles for use in court ran to 13 volumes. I also received a further 44 lever arch files of allegedly confidential documentation. Of the 14,000 pages of documentation in the confidential files, I was referred at the hearing to less than 100. I was also provided with six volumes of authorities.

The provision of that sort of volume of material in a four day case is absurd. It too is contrary to the overriding objective. It betrays a failure by those acting for all the parties to adopt a sensible and constructive approach to preparation. My current view, again subject to submissions at the handing down of this judgment, is that a substantial part of the costs of producing or agreeing this vast quantity of material should also be disallowed.”


In Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food And Rural Affairs [2017] EWHC 2259 (Admin)

the court said:

“I regret the need to have to make some observations on the inappropriate manner in which the claim was put before the court. I do so in order to make it plain to litigants that the practices that were followed in this case, and regrettably sometimes in others, are not acceptable. Notwithstanding the clear statement by Sullivan J (as he then was) in R (Newsmith Stainless Ltd) v Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions [2001] EWHC (Admin) 74 at paragraphs 6-10, this claim was accompanied by six volumes comprising over 2,000 pages of largely irrelevant material. The Claimant’s skeleton argument was long, diffuse and often confused. It also lacked proper cross-referencing to those pages in the bundles which were being relied upon by the Claimant. The skeleton gave little help to the court.

Shortly before the hearing the court ordered the production of a core bundle for the hearing not exceeding 250 pages. During the hearing, it was necessary to refer to only 5 or 6 pages outside that core bundle. Ultimately, as will be seen below, the claim succeeds on one rather obvious point concerned with the effect of the Grampian condition in the 2016 permission. But this had merely been alluded to in paragraph 76 and the first two lines of paragraph 77 of the skeleton. Indeed, the point was buried within the discussion of Ground 3 of the claim, a part of the Claimant’s argument to which it does not belong. Nevertheless, Mr Tim Buley, who appeared on behalf of the Defendant, acknowledged that he had appreciated that this point could be raised. He was ready to respond to it.

Certainly, for applications for statutory review or judicial review of decisions by Planning Inspectors or by the Secretary of State, including many of those cases designated as “significant” under CPR PD 54E, a core bundle of up to about 250 pages is generally sufficient to enable the parties’ legal arguments to be made. In many cases the bundle might well be smaller. Even where the challenge relates to a decision by a local planning authority, the size of the bundle need not be substantially greater in most cases.

Prolix or diffuse “grounds” and skeletons, along with excessively long bundles, impede the efficient handling of business in the Planning Court and are therefore contrary to the rationale for its establishment. Where the fault lies at the door of a claimant, other parties may incur increased costs in having to deal with such a welter of material before they can respond to the Court in a hopefully more incisive manner. Whichever party is at fault, such practices are likely to result in more time needing to be spent by the judge in pre-reading material so as to penetrate or decode the arguments being presented, the hearing may take longer, and the time needed to prepare a judgment may become extended. Consequently, a disproportionate amount of the Court’s finite resources may have to be given to a case prepared in this way and diverted from other litigants waiting for their matters to be dealt with. Such practices do not comply with the overriding objective and the duties of the parties (CPR 1.1 to 1.3). They are unacceptable.

The Court has wide case management powers to deal with such problems (see for example CPR 3.1). For example, it may consider refusing to accept excessively long skeletons or bundles, or skeletons without proper cross-referencing. It may direct the production of a core bundle or limit the length of a skeleton, so that the arguments are set out incisively and without “forensic chaff”. It is the responsibility of the parties to help the Court to understand in an efficient manner those issues which truly need to be decided and the precise points upon which each such issue turns. The principles in the CPR for dealing with the costs of litigation provide further tools by which the Court may deal with the inappropriate conduct of litigation, so that a party who incurs costs in that manner has to bear them.”


In Miley v Friends Life Ltd [2017] EWHC 2415 (QB)

the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court said:

“I would wish, at this early stage, to repeat an observation I have made in earlier cases in which I have been required to consider and adjudicate on very substantial quantities of material which have, in turn, given rise to lengthy oral and written representations. The parties in this case have produced opening and closing written submissions which run to a very substantial length indeed and all of which I have read carefully. As I remarked in Laporte v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2015] 3 All E.R. 438 at paragraphs 2 and 3:

“2…Whilst paying tribute to the level of industry to which these well intentioned and articulate submissions attest I resist the temptation to try to reconcile and resolve all of the subordinate issues which have thereby been generated. As the Court of Appeal held in Customs and Excise Commissioners v A and Another [2003] Fam 55:


“82. A judge’s task is not easy. One does often have to spend time absorbing arguments advanced by the parties which in the event turn out not to be central to the decision-making process…

83. However, judges should bear in mind that the primary function of a first instance judgment is to find facts and identify the crucial legal points and to advance reasons for deciding them in a particular way. The longer a judgment is and the more issues with which it deals the greater the likelihood that: (i) the losing party, the Court of Appeal and any future readers of the judgment will not be able to identify the crucial matters which swayed the judge; (ii) the judgment will contain something with which the unsuccessful party can legitimately take issue and attempt to launch an appeal; (iii) citation of the judgment in future cases will lengthen the hearing of those future cases because time will be taken sorting out the precise status of the judicial observation in question; (iv) reading the judgment will occupy a considerable amount of the time of legal advisers to other parties in future cases who again will have to sort out the status of the judicial observation in question. All this adds to the cost of obtaining legal advice.

84. Our system of full judgments has many advantages but one must also be conscious of the disadvantages.”

3. I have tried to balance those advantages and disadvantages in what follows by giving reasoned decisions on those issues of fact which I consider to be central but without dealing with every peripheral issue the resolution of which would not in any event impact on my essential findings or upon the outcome of the claims.”

Those observations apply with equal force to the present case.”

Later on in the judgment the court said:

“The volume of material involved, spanning as it does a number of years, is very considerable indeed. It is in this case, as it was in Laporte, a tribute to the industry of the legal teams on each side that this large body of evidence has been subjected to such sedulous analysis in both oral and written submissions. However, there is a risk in cases such as this that too close a scrutiny of the trees risks losing sight of the wood. With each, and ever more closely observed, layer of inspection and analysis, the law of diminishing returns takes a heavier toll.

It is for this reason that I have resisted the temptation to rehearse and resolve every issue of primary fact which has arisen; concluding that the demands of both justice and clarity are best served by an analysis involving a more generic and broader textured approach. The parties can, however, remain confident that where I have not made express reference to any given issue it is because I have considered it unnecessary to resolve that issue before reaching my central and essential conclusions on the evidence as a whole.”


Also see:






Written by kerryunderwood

October 4, 2017 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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