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Covid-19: Mutual CO-Operation

As with all businesses, Coles Miller is working to steer through the unchartered waters of COVID-19.

We are working to protect our staff but provide service continuity to our clients in adverse circumstances, and appreciate that you will be doing likewise.

In these testing times, and in accordance with UK Government guidance, we are encouraging our staff to work from home as far as possible. In doing so, we reach out to you to seek to agree your assistance in pursuing a more consensual approach to litigation over forthcoming months to ensure that we can respectively protect the best interests of our clients.

In seeking to take small steps that can positively impact our respective businesses, we invite you to reconsider your position regarding the following points:
  • Telephone calls: In current circumstances, effective communication is more important than ever. We invite you to openly engage with us via telephone in order to resolve disputes effectively and efficiently. We can all make and receive telephone calls, even whilst home working. Please use our normal office numbers.
  •  Service by email: We believe that it is in the best interests of our respective clients and the effective progression of current litigation to agree that our respective firm will agree to accept service by email. This will significantly enhance our respective teams’ ability to work digitally, and ensure that claims can be progressed.

If you are in agreement, then we would request that you adhere to the following:

Service of new proceedings: where Coles Miller has been nominated to accept service of proceedings, then please ensure that all new proceedings be served via (and the fee earner’s email address).
Service on ongoing proceedings: where proceedings are already live, you will have the details of our case handler and their direct email address. Please ensure that service on existing matters is via the nominated handler via their individual email address.
Medical Examinations: It is inevitable in the current circumstances that medical examinations may have to be postponed / rescheduled. We will ensure that our handlers adopt a consensual approach to the impact of such on case timetables. See below regarding extensions of time.
Exchange of evidence: In supporting digital and remote handling, we request that you agree to the exchange of witness evidence and expert evidence by email, via a password protected pdf document. The pdf document can be served in compliance with Directions and the password provided mutually once each party has served their evidence electronically.
Extensions of time: It is inevitable in current circumstances that both parties will face challenges complying with current Court directions and timetables. We anticipate that the Courts will take a dim view of ‘viral game playing’ and indeed has already indicated in O`Driscoll v FIVE Bianchi S.p.A that the normal 28 day rule under CPR 3.8(4) will be relaxed in appropriate circumstances by granting a 56 day extension by consent. We therefore invite you to take a consensual approach to considering requests for the extensions. We will ensure we respond similarly to requests made by you.
Remote Hearings: We note that HMCTS is gearing to the wider use of remote hearings, whether by telephone or Skype.
Adjournments: We consider it equally inevitable that adjournments will be required due to non-availability of clients, witnesses or experts. We request that you take a consensual approach should it be necessary to seek an adjournment of either an interlocutory hearing or trial. We will ensure that we again respond similarly to requests made by you.
BACS payments: To facilitate more efficient and effective transfer of funds in terms of damages and costs we are content to utilise BACS payments wherever possible. However, in light of the increased information security and financial crime risks associated with BACS payments, we will only make payments by BACS to the account details provided by your COLP in response to this letter, providing appropriate evidence to validate the bank account details provided. Similarly once such details are provided we will not accept any change of banking information other than from your COLP, again validated with appropriate evidence to confirm the revised banking details.
We believe that these are the core actions that will not only support the provision of a safe working environment for our respective staff but also prevent any delay or friction costs to cases during a disrupted period. However we will of course be open to any further steps that you may also wish to propose. The courts have already indicated that it expects advocates to take reasonable and proportionate steps in the current climate, and therefore hope that you are agreeable to that approach.
These are exceptional times and hence why this request is being made but it should benefit both businesses if we are able to continue to work in the best interests of our clients in these trying times. We look forward to your confirmation that you can assist with this request. My thanks to Keoghs COLP for permission to use their (as amended) wording.
Yours sincerely
Neil Andrews
Managing Partner & COLP