Zenith Personal Injury Current Awareness

Bundles of Joy – Trial Bundles and The Poor Old Judge

26 April 2018

Colin Richmond

Your average Counsel is a fairly robust beast of burden, used to carrying large amounts of paper, without complaint, the length and breadth of the country. Trial bundles running to several hundred pages in even the most straightforward of personal injury cases are not uncommon.

In my experience, however, judges are becoming more and more critical of overly-weighty bundles. It is, in my view, entirely understandable that a District Judge, with a busy list, who is asked to read a 500 page bundle before a hearing, should react with dismay when it turns out that only 50 or so pages are actually referred to at any point.

There are certain documents which, in my experience, appear repeatedly in bundles, only to be ignored entirely during the hearing. Among the worst offenders are:

  • Medical records – if a party is to be cross-examined on the content of medical records or if some other reference will be made to them during the hearing then they should, quite properly, form part of the bundle.

Unfortunately, it is all too common to see a party’s entire medical history included, often running to several hundred pages, when only a few pages are actually relevant. This leads to far larger bundles than are necessary. In such circumstances, there is nothing to stop the parties agreeing in advance which records are actually required and including only those that will be needed. It is worth remembering that a trial bundle should, ideally, be an agreed document.

  • Employment history – a party’s employment history may be extensive. In an employer’s liability claim, there may be various documents (accident report forms, training records and so on) that will be relevant at trial. If, however, there are a large number of irrelevant records then, again, the parties should agree to exclude those. 
  • Duplicated documents – I recently received a trial bundle which included, at various points, four separate copies of the same defence. The defendant had made several applications, to each of which the defence was attached as an exhibit. The parties had included full copies of the applications, along with supporting witness statements and exhibits, leading to significant duplication.

All that the judge actually needed was to see copies of the orders arising from the applications. There was no need to include the applications themselves unless specific reference was to be made to the content (it wasn’t). It is often useful to include all court orders, particularly if they will assist a judge who is unfamiliar with the case to understand how the proceedings have progressed. Again, however, sensible discretion should be applied.

  • Directions Questionnaires/Pre-Trial Checklists – unless there is any need to refer to such documents, there is no need to include them. 
  • Poor-quality copies of photographs – good-quality photographs are often useful. Poor-quality photographs are not useful. If the only photographs available are of such poor quality as to be unusable then there is no point including them in the bundle. 

This list is based on my own recent experience and is not intended to be exhaustive.

When considering what should or, equally importantly, what should not, go into a trial bundle, the parties should follow the provisions of Practice Direction 39A, which sets out the following:

Bundles of documents for hearings or trial

3.1 Unless the court orders otherwise, the claimant must file the trial bundle not more than 7 days and not less than 3 days before the start of the trial.

3.2 Unless the court orders otherwise, the trial bundle should include a copy of:

(1) the claim form and all statements of case,

(2) a case summary and/or chronology where appropriate,

(3) requests for further information and responses to the requests,

(4) all witness statements to be relied on as evidence,

(5) any witness summaries,

(6) any notices of intention to rely on hearsay evidence under rule 32.2,

(7) any notices of intention to rely on evidence (such as a plan, photograph etc.) under rule 33.6 which is not –

(a) contained in a witness statement, affidavit or experts report,

(b) being given orally at trial,

(c) hearsay evidence under rule 33.2,

(8) any medical reports and responses to them,

(9) any experts’ reports and responses to them,

(10) any order giving directions as to the conduct of the trial, and

(11) any other necessary documents.

The Practice Direction goes on to set out, among other things, the manner in which the bundle should physically be compiled. It sets out the requirement for ring binder or lever arch files, confirms that pagination should be continuous throughout and that numbered dividers should be used when the bundle consists of more than 100 pages.

In relation to ring binders and lever arch folders, common sense should be applied. It does not follow that simply because the whole bundle can be forced into a single folder that such a bundle will actually be usable at trial, particularly by a witness who is unused to such proceedings and who may be being asked to move around the bundle whilst being referred to documents during cross-examination. An ambitiously-packed bundle generally leads to witnesses finding themselves attempting to locate documents from the floor of the witness box. Such an approach also leaves no room to add documents to the bundle at trial if that becomes necessary.

Further useful guidance can be found in the Commercial Court Guide at:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/governmen...

In addition to the main guidance set out at section J.4, the Guide provides additional assistance at Appendix 7.

There is much to be gained from pleasing the trial judge. A trial will always run more smoothly if the judge has been able to quickly grasp the issues by easily identifying the relevant facts. A more efficient trial process leads to, among other things, fewer adjournments for lack of court time. There is also no harm at all in a firm gaining a reputation for filing sensible, well-prepared bundles.

In practical terms, the preparation of smaller bundles takes less time and there is a clear benefit in that for a solicitor, particularly in fixed costs cases.

It is also worth noting that in cases where fixed costs do not apply, proportionality will be key in any assessment of costs. If a disproportionate amount of time has been spent on compiling an excessive bundle, at least some of the costs of that time are likely to be disallowed.

It would appear to be in everyone’s interests, not least those of the kindly local judge, to ensure that bundles are prepared appropriately.

Current Awareness

By the Personal Injury team