In the UK, a recent rule change in the procedures for bringing many civil cases will have a significant impact on how expert witnesses prepare their reports.
On the 1st of October 2023, the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2023 came into effect. A new process, known as the “Intermediate Track”, was introduced for certain “straightforward” cases in the £25,000-£100,000 claims range. Cases falling within this intermediate track are now limited both in the number of expert witnesses that can be called to give oral evidence in court, as well as the length of the written report submitted by each expert witness.
These intermediate track cases limit each party to two expert witnesses, and expert witness reports are to be limited to a maximum of 20 pages, excluding exhibits. Discretion is left to the court to permit longer reports but it would appear that the intention here is to cap the length of these trials at two days, with less “airtime” for expert witnesses as a consequence.
On one hand, the multi-track system now being used by the UK courts, with cases being categorised by complexity, may lead to more expedient and cost-effective litigation in certain cases, with the parties being constrained in the length and number of reports that they can submit. Indeed, succinctness and brevity are always welcome in report writing, and a university style “word count” might lead to more focused, attuned reports. However, on the other hand, expert witnesses may find it difficult to condense their findings into twenty pages, leading to nuance being missed and oversimplification.
In Ireland, we do not have a comparable multi-track case system, and there is no sign as yet of any desire to expressly curtail the number of expert witnesses that can be called in a case, or the length of their reports. However, expert witnesses based in Ireland who routinely deliver expert evidence in the UK courts will have to take heed of these new limitations, and if the new UK rules gain traction, we may see something comparable emerge in report writing here in Ireland.
By Alex Nichol, Solicitor, Program Developer and Trainer with La Touche Legal Training.