TRIAL BUNDLES, SEDLEY’S LAWS AND DOCUMENTARY CARPET BOMBING

“Sedley’s Laws” of trial bundles were mentioned by Mr Justice Turner in Griffiths -v- The Secretary of State for Health [2015]. Another example of over-sized trial bundles.

“CPR 1.3 imposes a duty upon the parties to help the court to further the overriding objective. This duty is not fulfilled by documentary carpet bombing.

THE CASE

The claimant was bringing an action alleging mishandling by an ambulance crew which led to tetraplegia.

JUDGE’S COMMENTS ON THE BUNDLES

THE DOCUMENTS

  1. Before moving on to the substantive issues, I must make a passing observation on the sheer scale of the documentation which has been accumulated and offloaded onto the court in this case. In an otherwise meticulously prepared claim, the approach to the preparation of the trial bundle has been egregiously over-inclusive. No fewer than seventeen lever arch files were deposited with the court. They contained well over five thousand pages of documentary material. About a dozen of these lever arch files remained unopened throughout the trial and reference to the contents of three others was confined to just a few pages. It would be no exaggeration to say that about 90% of the documentation was entirely redundant.
  2. With disarming frankness, the claimant’s written opening provides at paragraph 10:

“There are seventeen trial bundles and a core bundle and application bundle. Files four to seventeen contain largely irrelevant documents…”

  1. Sedley’s Laws of Documents[1] provides, in so far as is material:

“Eighth Law: At least 80 per cent of the documents shall be irrelevant. Counsel shall refer in Court to no more than ten per cent of the documents…

  1. In marked contrast, Practice Direction 39A of the CPR 3.2 identifies ten limited categories of documents to be included in the trial bundle together with “any other necessary documents”.
  2. In this case, the trial bundles entirely fulfilled the expectations of parody but signally failed to comply with the Practice Direction. Of course, the court should not be too ready to criticise solicitors who may understandably err a little on the side of generosity when deciding which documents to include but this pragmatic indulgence does not excuse wholesale profligacy. CPR 1.3 imposes a duty upon the parties to help the court to further the overriding objective. This duty is not fulfilled by documentary carpet bombing. Those responsible for putting trial bundles together should bear in mind that if they are in breach of the Practice Direction then, in appropriate cases, adverse costs consequences may flow.”

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