New Pre-Action Protocol for Commercial Actions has the potential to provide significant cost savings in commercial disputes valued under £30,000
The NI County Court has introduced a new Pre-Action Protocol for Commercial Actions (the “New Protocol”).
Following the success of the Pre-action Protocol for Commercial Actions in the NI High Court, the New Protocol seeks to increase early collaboration in lower-value commercial disputes and to bring actions to a swift, amicable, and cost-effective resolution.
The NI County Court hears the majority of civil claims valued up to £30,000.
The New Protocol applies, except in some limited circumstances, to all of those claims falling under the remit of the NI County Court which relate to business or commercial transactions.
The requirements of the New Protocol closely follow the pre-action requirements of the new High Court Practice Direction 1 of 2022 in requiring the early exchange of detailed pre-action correspondence and, notably, the attendance at a “Pre-Action Meeting” before lodging any claim.
The new “Pre-Action Meeting” provides an opportunity for parties to:
- Agree the main issues and causes of disagreement in their dispute.
- Consider if alternative dispute resolution may provide a suitable alternative to litigation.
- Consider, where expert evidence is likely to be required, whether a joint expects should be appointed.
- Consider the conduct of the litigation with the objective of minimising cost and delay.
It is further recommended that those representatives who attend the Pre-Action Meeting hold the authority to settle the potential action.
While the New Protocol falls short of dictating sanctions for non-compliance, the introduction of guidance specific to commercial actions and mindful of the unique considerations of commercial entities is a very welcome move.
As most commercial actions in the County Court end in settlement, the New Protocol, encouraging early and constructive collaboration between parties, has the potential to provide significant cost savings for Plaintiffs and Defendants alike.
If you would like any further information or advice, please contact Alison McClean from the Commercial Litigation team.
*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.