Experts hit out at 20-page limit on reports in intermediate track


Expert witnesses have made a last-minute call to scrap the rule in the new intermediate track for civil claims that limits their reports to 20 pages.

The Expert Witness Institute has written to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee ahead of the new fixed recoverable costs regime coming into effect on Sunday, which introduces the intermediate track for cases worth between £25,000 and £100,000.

New rule 28.14(3) provides that, unless the court orders otherwise, “any expert report shall not exceed 20 pages, excluding any necessary photographs, plans and academic or technical articles attached to the report”.

The EWI claimed that this “significant change for expert witnesses” has the potential to impact the quality of expert evidence and complained that it was introduced without any consultation.

The institute said it only recently became aware of the rule because it has been added to part 28 – which is being amended to include the rules for the new track – rather than part 35, which deals with experts.

In the letter, EWI chief executive Simon Berney-Edwards said: “It can only be assumed that the logic taken by the committee is that cases between £25k and £100k are less complex and therefore expert evidence can and should be restricted in order to save costs. If this is indeed the logic used, we would strongly urge you to reconsider.”

He said reports tended to be over 20 pages “because it is important for experts to include logical reasoning, refer to other opinions, and incorporate summary paragraphs”.

“All of this is in place to support the court in decision-making. The introduction of this arbitrary page limit will compromise the report and the ability of the judge to assess the technical aspects of a case.

“Indeed, in advance of a judge’s involvement, it is good, well-structured expert evidence that assists the lawyers in settling cases avoiding the need for trials.”

The EWI argued that sub-£100,000 claims were “not always straightforward”, particularly in medico-legal, construction and forensic accounting cases.

“Plus, at early stages in a claim it’s not always possible to calculate the value until after various expert witness reports have been obtained.”

The 20-page limit was “arbitrary, with no clarity on what to omit”, and experts may not be able to meet their obligations within it.

The EWI suggested that requiring a single joint expert would be a better way to reduce costs in these cases.

The letter concluded: “It is for experts to determine the length of the report is each case, based on their instructions, their expertise and scope of opinion, and the details of the case.

“We believe that the introduction of this rule will compromise the quality of expert evidence and good decision making. Ultimately, this will have an impact on the administration of justice, the support provided to the courts, and the outcomes for those involved in litigation.”

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