Buffer Rule – Freedom for parties to agree court extensions
On 5 June 2014 a new rule will be applied to all areas of civil litigation. (Under the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 5) Rules 2014).
The change amends rule 3.8 of the CPR which currently provides that where a rule, practice direction or court order requires a party to do something within a specified time and specifies the consequences of failure to comply, the time for doing the act in question may not be extended by the parties.
The new rule implements an important amendment in that parties’ may, by prior written agreement, extend the time up to a maximum of 28 days, provided that a hearing date is not impacted. The agreement must be in writing.
The rule has been introduced to reduce the ‘disproportionate’ burden on the courts’ resources and delays to listed trial dates whilst applications are determined.
The buffer rule will provide parties’ with the flexibility to agree extensions within a short period of time and in a less costly and timely manner, without the uncertainty of the court dealing with such applications. As a result, this could reduce the amount of such applications being made to the court, which will alleviate pressure on the court’s resources.
It is worth considering that at present there is no rule as to what is a ‘reasonable time period’ for response by a party to agree to an extension. It is important that parties seek extensions as early as possible and consider whether there is enough time to agree an extension and not presume that it will be agreed at short notice or at all. If the other side does not agree or respond an application will have to be made to the court.