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Trial bundles – careful preparation required

Rather like buses, one waits for judicial comment on court documents and trial bundles, and then two come along at once. An article discusses a recent case in which the court was unimpressed with the claimant’s approach to the trial bundle, saying that its impact would be felt not just in terms of costs but also in the judgment on the trial. A CA case has also stated that a failure to follow the practice direction on the citation of authorities can lead the parties to expect the cost of preparing a non-compliant bundle of authorities to be disallowed.
 
A trial bundle comprising 35 lever arch files was presented to court, including a 28-file chronological bundle containing over 8,000 pages. At trial however a total of just 450 pages were referred to from the entire bundle, which left the court at a loss as to the rationale behind it. A number of the pages were wholly redacted and were entirely black or blank which rendered them largely useless and photographs had been included which were irrelevant to the proceedings. The court took the view that this attitude to the trial bundle would be relevant to costs and to the judgment.
 
An interesting point suggested that the starting point for preparation of the trial bundle should not be thinning down a vast number of documents but rather what is needed is a building up from nothing approach.
 
A judge’s pithy summation from an earlier case observed that ’the bundle should be an aid to the court, not an obstacle course’.
 
Helpfully, the article goes on to consider how practitioners should approach preparation of bundles and includes:
  • where the total number of pages is more than 100, numbered dividers should be placed at intervals between groups of documents;
  • if the document to be included is illegible, a typed copy should be included in the bundle next to it, suitably cross-referenced; 
  • trial bundles should be copied double sided;
  • where more than one trial bundle is supplied, they should be clearly distinguishable, for example, by different colours or letters;
  • practitioners should consult the relevant court guide in addition to PD 32;
  • practitioners should consider the extent to which an electronic bundle is appropriate (again consulting court guides);
  • the approach to producing an electronic trial bundle should be the same as a paper version in that discipline should be exercised and the documents should be easily accessible and in navigable inform and should allow additions of new documents with greater ease – electronic bundles should not promote the inclusion of every document ‘just in case’;
  • consider whether a document is truly necessary to be put before the court – consider the value and relevance of each document to be added to the bundle, rather than adopting a default position of including everything;
  • if there is still a lot of documents to include, consider preparing a core bundle containing core documents which are essential to the proceedings;
  • ensure that the bundle can be navigated easily, remembering that judges and witnesses will be encountering the bundles for the first time.
See [2019] 87 Commercial Litigation Journal 6.
 

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