Understanding the Law
October 29, 2004
The Trial

At least 21 days before the date fixed for the trial, all parties must inform the claimant of the document they wish to be included in the trial bundles. The documents must be separated into those that are agreed upon, and those that are not agreed upon. The claimant (before CPR2000 the plaintiff) prepares the bundle. There must be three different bundles, each containing items to be used at the trial. The bundles must be filed at least ten days before the trial. The date for the trial would have been given at the last case management or the pre-trial review but a list of cases is still sent via electronic mail to the lawyers and one is displayed on the notice board at the Court House.{{more}}

The judge in the pre-trial review would have decided whether or not there would be opening addresses. He would have allocated the time for each witness. The parties will present their witnesses in court. They would be examined, cross-examined and re-examined accordingly. In the civil court the claimant has the burden of proof and must prove his case. He must meet the standard of proof. For instance, in a case where the claimant claims the defendant was negligent he must persuade the court that the defendant did not exercise due care. The court decides on a balance of probabilities or preponderance of evidence. To establish a preponderance of evidence means to prove that something is more likely to happen than not. Compared to the standard of proof in the criminal court, that is, “beyond reasonable doubt”, the standard of proof in the civil court is lower.

After the evidence is concluded counsels for both sides address the court with a summary of the evidence. The decision to have closing argument is usually taken at the pre-trial review. The judge may ask the parties to file written submissions to aid in his deliberation. The judge could give judgment at the end of the trial or he may reserve judgment. The judgment could be oral or written. There is no jury in the civil court as is the case in the United States of America.

In his judgment the judge gives a brief exposition of the case explaining how and why he arrived at his decision. He may refer to some background information, the evidence of the witnesses, laws and cases. Consideration may also be given to convincing and applicable arguments presented by the lawyers. The judgment also contains the order of the court in relation to the claims made by the claimant. If there were no dismissals then the claims would most likely be granted. The court draws up the order unless it directs the party to draft it or it is a consent order or it dispenses with the need to do so.

The unsuccessful party is often ordered to pay costs to the successful party. In rare cases the successful party may be asked to pay part or the whole cost. Interest could also be given.

It must be noted that once the parties have retained a lawyer, it is the duty of the lawyer to attend court and to look after the interest of his or her client. Documents served upon the party personally must be conveyed immediately to the lawyer.

If the claimant fails to attend the trial and it could be confirmed that notice of the hearing was served then the judge could strike out the claims. If the defendant is absent the judge can proceed in his or her absence.