How to Obtain Litigation Documents in a Tribunal case


What are Litigation Documents?


After tribunal proceedings are commenced, certain documents are produced as part of the process. Some of these documents are produced by a party in the case, and some are produced by the tribunal itself. Here are some examples:


Order

An Order document (see example below) is normally one or two pages and sets out the order or orders made by the tribunal on a particular date. It is normally either signed by the judge (or by a tribunal official if it is a routine order such as standard directions) or else has the tribunal stamp containing the Royal Coat of Arms (sometimes called a "seal"), or it may be both signed and have a stamp. 

Sometimes, before a tribunal makes an order, it invites the parties to submit draft orders containing the wording of an order they would like the tribunal to make. The tribunal may make the order using the wording proposed or it may decide to use different wording when making the order, or it may decide to make a completely different order. It is important, therefore, to get a copy of the order with the stamp on it (or signed by the judge, or both) so that you are sure that it is the order which the tribunal actually made rather than just a draft of what one party wanted. 

    


Notice of Hearing

A Notice of Hearing gives advance notice of the date, time and place of a tribunal hearing, how long it is expected to last, and what type of hearing it is (e.g. trial, hearing of an application, case management conference). It is normally either signed or stamped (or both).


Judgment (Decision)

A Judgment (example) is quite a long document which gives the judge’s reasons for coming to a decision.


Pleadings

At the beginning of the litigation process, documents are drafted by each party (usually by their barrister) setting out what their "case" is in concise form. These documents (example), which are often called "pleadings" (although the word "pleadings" does not normally appear on them) are then signed by the party and sent to the tribunal office and to the other party.

Witness Statements  

The witness statements will just be exchanged between the parties – usually sometime after the Disclosure of Documents stage - and often only the parties (not the tribunal office) will have copies of them until just before the trial (when they will be included in a trial bundle copies of which will be sent to the tribunal office). Witness statements should have words such as Witness Statement of John Smith on them, often within parallel horizontal lines ("tramlines"). 

Exhibits

Each witness statement may be accompanied by one of more "exhibits". In the witness statement it may say, for example "I refer to a photograph marked Exhibit JJS2"  and the photograph referred to will be separate with a front-sheet identifying it as Exhibit JJS2.  

List of Documents

Copies of Lists of Documents disclosed by each party to the other may not be on the tribunal file because often the directions given by the tribunal are that such disclosure lists are to be sent by the parties to each other, but not also to the tribunal office. It depends on the particular tribunal and the type of case.  

What do Litigation Documents look like?

It is easier to find documents when you know what they might look like. In terms of appearance, most litigation documents are in one of two styles.


Pre-printed Forms 

Some are on pre-printed forms with the details filled in in boxes. You can see an example at http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/GetForm.do?court_forms_id=4362 Each form is different but they have a similar style which is easy to recognise


Typed Documents with Tramlines

Some are drafted from scratch without using a form. Usually you can recognise these because the top half of the first page will have the name of the tribunal and the names of the parties and, below that, the type of document in tramlines like this:

 

IN THE FIRST TIER TRIBUNAL

PROPERTY CHAMBER

LAND REGISTRATION

 

BETWEEN:-

 

JOHN SMITH

Applicant

 

- and -

 

LUCY JONES

Respondent

 

____________________________________________

 

APPLICANT'S STATEMENT OF CASE

 

___________________________________________

 


Offer letters

Offers to settle made by one party to another (if any) should be sent to your barrister when you first consult them. The tribunal office will not have copies of offers. Offers may be on a form or may be in a simple letter format. Look out for the words “Without Prejudice” “Without Prejudice Except as to Costs” “Calderbank offer” “Part 36 Offer” or “Open Offer” in the title of the letter, perhaps underlined or in block capitals.

 

Obtaining Copies of Documents for your Case

You should have copies of all of the above documents which have been sent out, so far, in your case and, when you instruct a barrister, the barrister will need to see them, or at least some of them.

It is possible, however, that you may not have copies of some of these documents which have been sent out. For example you may have received them but misplaced them. Or it may be that, up until recently, you have engaged a solicitor and your solicitor has these documents but you do not (if you engage a solicitor the documents received from the other party and the tribunal would normally be sent only to your solicitor because your solicitor’s address will have been on the tribunal file as your “address for service” and even if your solicitor has sent you documents for signature you might have sent them back after signature without keeping a copy). 

It is also possible that although you have all the pages of all the documents they have become separated - perhaps because you did not realise the significance of them being bound together - and it is not clear what goes with what. For example, a witness statement or pleading might refer to certain documents saying "copies of these documents are attached". If you have detached the documents, although you still have them, it then becomes unclear which out of all the documents you have are the ones being referred to in the pleading (a pleading will not attach all documents but only certain key ones so knowing precisely what document was attached, and therefore is being referred to, is crucial) so in this case you need to obtain a fresh copy of the complete pleading with attachments.   


Whatever the reason why you do not currently have all these documents, you will need to obtain copies. Depending how urgent it is, you may be able to obtain copies from a variety of sources as follows:-

  • You can contact the tribunal office and ask them to send you, preferably as PDFs so that you do not have to scan them in, the documents in the file for your case. For pages which contain colour photographs or colour-coded maps or diagrams, make sure that you get colour copies. Of course you can only get from the tribunal office copies of those documents which have to be filed at the tribunal office – as explained above some documents are just sent between the parties and not filed at the tribunal office.
  • If the other side is represented by solicitors you can ask them to send you PDF copies of the documents you need. They should have copies of all documents sent to them, or which they have sent to you, or which the tribunal has sent out. There is not generally any legal rule which requires them to send you further copies of documents – they could take the view that they have sent you (or your solicitor if you had previously engaged a solicitor) documents at the time and they are not obliged to send you further copies. But generally tribunals take a dim view of parties who act like this, certainly if they are only being asked for copies of a small number of documents, and if the other side has engaged solicitors you should find that they are willing to send you copies of what you ask for. Of course you do need to be specific about what you are asking for and not just ask for everything – unless, of course, the other side/their solicitors have everything so well organised on computer as PDFs anyway that they actually find it easier to just press a button and send you all documents.
  • If you have previously engaged solicitors then you can get copies of documents from them. How quickly they respond to your request for copies of documents is another matter. Some solicitors may quite understand that you no longer want to engage them because you cannot afford to (if that is your reason) and will do all they reasonably can to promptly give you the documents you need so that your case has a fair wind. Other solicitors may be less obliging – it is unlikely they will refuse outright to provide you will copies (unless there is an unpaid bill and they want to use that as a lever to try to get you to pay when you may be querying their bill) but they may drag their heels saying that existing (rather than former) clients are their priority. 

If you need documents very urgently – e.g. if a hearing or deadline is imminent – then it may be that the best thing to do is to immediately contact the 
tribunal office to get copies - the best way to do this is usually to telephone, making sure you get the name of the person you are talking to, and then follow up, if necessary, by email, and, if you do not immediately get the documents requested, also ask solicitors on the other side (if there are solicitors on the other side).

Disclaimer

This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

This page was lasted updated in November 2016 Disclaimer