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COURT ORDER

LEGAL

It's official. The Technology and Construction Court (TCC) is in resurgence, writes Kim Franklin.

This message was proclaimed by Mr Justice Rupert Jackson when launching the new edition of the TCC Guide last month. The guide is a comprehensive text dealing with all aspects of TCC litigation, prepared by the TCC judges in collaboration with the solicitors and barristers who practise regularly in the courts.

It is designed to ensure effective management of TCC cases while retaining the flexibility of modern procedures, many of which were first pioneered by the previous generation of TCC judges.

The guide is particularly welcomed by infrequent visitors to the TCC. Hitherto, the parties, their experts and advisers have found themselves subject to complex and specialised case-management procedures, developed by particular judges. Different procedures were applied by different judges, none of which were to be found in any textbook. Only those who appeared regularly before the judges were able to give any insight as to what to expect, and increasingly the advice was to expect the unexpected.

The new guide assists with the definition of TCC cases that are, much like the elephant, easier to recognise than describe. As a rule of thumb they involve technically complex issues and usually arise out of construction or engineering projects but also include computer, insurance and fire disputes. The guide provides a checklist for the first case-management conference and subsequent applications to the court.

Important guidance is given for the preparation of factual evidence (statements, even if drafted by lawyers should be in the witness' own words) and expert evidence (the parties should identify the issues;

the expert should decide what goes in the report). Some light is thrown on the knotty problem of single joint experts - when they are required (in low-value claims, on self-contained topics or for technical testing) and when they are not (in most sizeable claims where large pre-action sums have already been spent on experts).

The guide concludes with arrangements for trials, including preparation and contents of the trial bundle and opening statements.

This new comprehensive manifestation of procedures in the TCC has been welcomed by practitioners and court users alike in the anticipation that it will improve consistency of practice by the courts.

But the good news does not stop there. Vivian Ramsey QC, the popular and supremely unflappable former head of specialist construction barrister Keating Chambers, was recently appointed as a High Court Judge. Ramsey, the son of a bishop, and an engineer in a previous life, had a prolific practice as a construction silk. His room in chambers accumulated such vast quantities of files and paperwork that it was the subject of a structural survey.

Successful building silks seldom take judicial appointments and pundits cannot help but link Ramsey's appointment to the positive changes at the TCC. It is to be hoped that Mr Justice Jackson will soon be joined by another experienced and accomplished construction specialist to assist with the work of the TCC.

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