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Preparing to issue proceedings

26 April 2017

This note provides general guidance on the steps to consider prior to embarking on litigation. There are a number of practical considerations that should be taken into account. The civil justice system in England expects parties to take a certain number of steps before issuing proceedings. This guide runs through these matters in outline.

The clock is ticking...

The law does not allow potential claims to remain alive indefinitely. If you have a right that you want the court to enforce, you are required to take steps to enforce that right within a prescribed period. The period depends on the nature of the right or remedy required. So, at the very outset, consideration should be given to the question of limitation.

Limitation is not straightforward. The period can vary from as short as three months (in matters of judicial review) to as long as fifteen years (with long stop dates). Apart from limitation rules, courts will also apply equitable rules in cases of delay which may prevent a claim being brought in certain circumstances.

It may be that the potential claim is already out of time. Alternatively, there may be very little time remaining before the limitation guillotine comes down. In the latter case, this will dictate the amount of dialogue that you enter into with the defendant prior to issuing proceedings: sometimes a claim is issued urgently simply to protect against limitation.

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