Effective from October 1, 2023, the enforcement of the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2023 ushered in a significant shift in the UK legal landscape. This amendment introduced the "Intermediate Track," a novel procedural avenue tailored for cases falling within the Â£25,000 to Â£100,000 claims spectrum. The unique feature of this Intermediate Track lies in its constraints on the number of expert witnesses permitted and the prescribed limitations on the length of their reports, set at a maximum of 20 pages (exclusive of exhibits).
Within the realm of these Intermediate Track cases, a stringent restriction allows each party to call upon only two expert witnesses. Furthermore, the length of expert witness reports is deliberately curtailed to adhere to the 20-page limit, excluding any accompanying exhibits. While the court retains discretion to entertain longer reports, the overarching intention appears to be a conscious effort to confine these trials to a concise two-day timeframe, thereby minimizing the "airtime" allocated to expert witnesses.
This structural transformation aligns with the multi-track system employed by UK courts, categorizing cases based on complexity. The potential benefits of expediting and streamlining litigation are evident, as parties find themselves constrained by specific limitations on the length and number of reports they can submit. The emphasis on succinctness and brevity, akin to a university-style "word count," might foster more focused and attuned expert reports.
However, this paradigm shift raises pertinent concerns. On one hand, the streamlined approach may contribute to more expedient and cost-effective litigation, fostering concise and targeted reporting. On the other hand, expert witnesses grapple with the challenge of condensing nuanced findings into a confined 20-page space, risking oversimplification and the potential omission of crucial details.
Interestingly, the jurisdictional landscape in Ireland stands distinct, lacking a comparable multi-track case system. Presently, there is no discernible inclination to expressly curtail the number of expert witnesses or impose restrictions on the length of their reports. Nonetheless, Irish-based expert witnesses regularly engaging with UK courts must remain vigilant regarding these newfound limitations. The prospect of these UK rules gaining traction could potentially foreshadow a comparable evolution in report writing practices within the Irish legal context.