When there is a trial in a civil court or tribunal the judge will refer to documents arranged in a Trial Bundle which is produced by one of the parties - usually the party which started the proceedings. In a Trial Bundle every page has a page number and the judge and each party at the hearing have identical copies of the Trial Bundle. The Trial Bundle will have an Index at the front.
Normally the court or tribunal rules, or orders, will require one party, normally the party bringing the proceedings, to produce and deliver the Trial Bundle in the required number of copies, but that party should ask the other party, in good time, what documents they wish to be included, and the other party should respond in good time. Before the use of computers became widespread, Trial Bundles were created using typewriters, biros (for page numbering) and photocopiers. The typewriter/biro/photocopier method is a laborious process so typically before this laborious process started in earnest, the bundle-producing party would type up a draft index of documents and FAX it to the other party for agreement. The other party would list any further documents they required and the bundle-producing party would type up an amended draft index or more often (because typing up a new index would be time-consuming - typewriters did not have the ability to insert text) would send a FAX saying how the draft index would be modified (e.g. "we will add the document you mention in paragraph 15 of your letter to... etc. etc... The documents we described as.... was not, but rather... so we amend this description... This also means that... etc. etc."). When the final index was agreed, the laborious process of producing the copies of the bundle, using a pen to number the pages and a photocopier to create the required number of copies, would begin.
These days computers may be used but are often not taken full advantage of. So when the time comes you may well find that the bundle-producing party sends you a draft index they have typed up, rather than, for example, a full draft bundle in PDF Form generated by software. There are a number of potential pitfalls in trying to agree the contents of the bundle just by reference to a draft index in this way. The description of a document in the index may not be exact and you may agree (or at least not object to) the index only to discover, when you receive the complete bundle some days later, that the document actually included is not the one you expected. Another potential problem is that, because the index has been typed up manually (rather than generated using PDF indexing software) often it will not list all documents individually but, to save typing time, will list some documents as a group, and you cannot be 100% sure precisely what set of documents that group description is intended to encompass.
If you think about these potential problems in advance at the stage when the court or tribunal is considering what directions to give for the whole case, you might be able to persuade the court or tribunal to give detailed directions about the Trial Bundle so that each party knows what it has to do by specific dates leading up to the trial. For example instead of simply making an order like this:
you could ask the court/tribunal to make a direction like this:
1. Trial Bundles
(1) The parties must cooperate in the preparation of a bundle of documents for the use of the Tribunal and the parties at the hearing
(2) Only relevant documents should be included. It is wasteful for unnecessary documents to be put in the bundle. The parties are required to be sensible and practical about what documents are required.
(3) Generally the Trial Bundle should contain clear legible copies of:
(a) The statements of case served by each of the parties;
(b) Witness statements served by each of the parties;
(c) Documents attached to or referred to in the statements of case or witness statements; and
(d) Any other relevant documents served by a party.
(4) The Trial Bundle should be:-
(a) in a ring binder;
(b) with documents in date order or some other sensible and appropriate order; and
(c) with each sheet separately numbered clearly in red ink in the bottom right hand corner.
(5) Responsibility for the preparation of the trial Bundle shall rest with the Applicant.
(6) At least 28 days before to the hearing date the Respondent shall notify the Applicant what documents they require in the Trial Bundle.
(7) The Applicant shall then add the documents which that party wishes to be included, avoiding any unnecessary duplication.
(8) Documents which have not previously been disclosed to the other party shall not be included.
(9) At least 14 days prior to the hearing date the Applicant shall deliver two copies of the Trial Bundle to each of the other parties (free of charge) and one copy to the Tribunal. Due to limitations in storage space the Tribunal's copy must not be delivered earlier than 21 days prior to the hearing date.
(10) The Applicant shall bring an extra copy to the hearing for the use of witnesses.
(11) If the parties are unable to agree the contents of the Trial Bundle the Applicant shall include all of the documents notified by the opposite party with a note stating what documents are objected to and a brief explanation why. At the hearing the Tribunal will determine what documents should or should not be included.
There is some variation between the procedural requirements of different tribunals and courts for different types of case. The above explanation of procedural rules relating to bundles is only an overview and in order to be reasonably concise I have had to leave some details out - details which are likely to affect what the procedural law would say about your own situation. So please do not rely on the above but contact me for advice.
This page was lasted updated in January 2017. Disclaimer