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  • Prospective litigants should be aware that the Committee for Justice of the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently considering proposals for a Statutory Rule to amend the County Courts (NI) Order 1980 to increase the general civil jurisdiction of the County Court in Northern Ireland from £15,000 to £30,000 and the general jurisdiction of the District Judge in the County Court from £5,000 to £10,000.

    There is also a related proposal for a Statutory Rule to amend the County Court Rules (NI) 1981 to make provision for scale costs and new procedures in the County Court as a consequence of the intention to increase the general financial jurisdiction of the County Courts as indicated above.

    As the legislative process has not yet been completed, a precise date for commencement of the new Rules is not yet available but it is possible that they could be brought into operation as early as end January/early February 2013.
    It is intended that Pre-action Protocols will come into effect to coincide with the coming into force of the jurisdictional changes.

    It is understood that it is not proposed that proceedings initiated prior to commencement should be remitted to the County Court and that the draft legislation provides that it is not retrospective in effect.
    It is understood that the Rules will
    • permit a plaintiff to require the defendant to serve particulars of the defence;

    • require the plaintiff to notify the defendant in writing of his/her intention to lodge a Certificate of Readiness no later than 14 days prior to lodging the Certificate;

    • permit interlocutory applications to be decided by a judge without a hearing in the absence of a specific provision to the contrary;

    • allow a District Judge to deal with interlocutory applications which fall within his/her jurisdiction;

    • provide that discovery is automatic;

    • permit interrogatories to be served without leave;

    • provide rules on evidence in clinical negligence cases; and

    • provide a new Appendix 2 which includes:
    • 3 additional new bands in Table 1 from £15,001 – £20000, £20001 – £25000 and £25001 – £30,000;
    • a new fee for additional day hearings;
    • a new provision where there is more than one defendant and
    • otherwise increase costs over a two year period (2% in 2013 with a further 2% increase to take effect in 2014);

    If, for instance, you are contemplating issuing Proceedings seeking compensation for Personal Injuries in excess of £15,000.00 which would have been in the jurisdiction of the High Court these Proceedings, under the new regulations, will then be issuable in the County Court. Is this in your best interests?

    Contact Morgan McManus for further information.