The Court provides guidance on Part 18 Requests for Further Information

The issue of whether a Part 18 Request for Further Information is in fact a fishing expedition to find evidence to support a party’s case will no doubt rage on. However, in a recent case, the High Court considered the issue of whether to allow applications for further information under CPR 18 and provided some further guidance on requesting disclosure on matters not included within a party’s statement of case.

The case of National Grid Electricity Transimission Plc v ABB Limited and others [2014] EWHC 1555 (Ch) relates to a European Commission decision that the defendants were in breach of competition law. The claimants initiated proceedings on the basis that it had suffered substantial loss resulting from the defendants’ cartel. After the exchange of witness statements, the claimant, dissatisfied with the information given, subsequently made an application for further information relating to, among other things, details of the individuals involved in the cartel and how it operated.

The defendants argued that the applications should be refused on various grounds, including that the information requested went beyond the infringement found by the Commission and that making them provide the additional information would be contrary to the adversarial system.

Roth J allowed the applications in part, holding that the majority of requests for information made by the claimant were reasonable and proportionate. In doing so, he stated that Part 18 of the Civil Procedure Rules had to be interpreted “in the light of the overriding objective” and with the principle of open litigation in mind. He recognised that the information sought must relate to “any matter in dispute” and that in this case potentially relevant information was in the knowledge of only one side (that is, the defendants).

Certain of the claimant’s requests concerning how the cartel had operated were dismissed as being disproportionate and wholly unconnected to the issues raised in the statements of case.

This decision highlights how requests for further information allow parties to ask questions that do not relate to matters contained in the statements of case. CPR 18 can be used as a helpful tool in forcing disclosure of relevant information and documentation from an non-forthcoming party. It is also a reminder that the test is one of relevance, reasonableness and proportionality.

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