Shorter pleadings, shorter judgments?

Three cheers for Mr Justice Leggatt who in Tchenguiz v Grant Thornton [2015] EWHC 405 has struck a blow against over-long pleadings. “Statements of case must be concise,” he said. “They must plead only material facts, meaning those necessary for the purpose of formulating a cause of action or defence, and not background facts or evidence. Still less should they contain arguments, reasons or rhetoric.”

The Commercial Court Guide requires that statements of case should be limited to 25 pages. So in this case Particulars of Claim which ran to 94 pages and included “…50 pages of narrative, liberally interspersed with assertions of fraud, falsity, dishonesty and improper motive” were struck out and the cost of drafting disallowed.

As anyone who has had to plead a case or draft a letter before action knows, it is often a challenge to distil the essence of the claim so as to make the document short and precise. It is much easier (and lazier) to draft a lengthy document with copious references to cut-and-pasted evidence. As Blaise Pascal said of his letter in 1656: “It is only so long because I have not had the leisure to make it shorter”.

The Technology and Construction Court Guide does not prescribe a limit for the length of statements of case, but pleadings in construction claims are notorious for their prolixity. It would be a welcome development if the TCC adopted the Tchenguiz approach and issued similar guidance. And who knows? We may even hope for shorter judgments…

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Filed under Particulars of Claim, Pleadings, Statements of Case

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