Is there a quicker and easier way to resolve a commercial dispute? An application for summary judgment might be the perfect option.

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Is there a quicker and easier way to resolve a commercial dispute? An application for summary judgment might be the perfect option.

What is Summary Judgment?

Summary judgment is a procedure in which a Court determines a claim or a particular part of a claim at an early stage and without the need for a full trial.

A Judge will reach their decision based upon the parties’ statements of case and evidence before it without conducting a detailed examination of all of the evidence such as disclosure and trial witness statements.

Summary judgment can be brought of the Court’s own volition, or by either the Claimant or the Defendant making an application to Court. The procedure is particularly suited to cases where a party’s claim or defence has no real prospect of success and there is no other compelling reason why the case should be dealt with at trial.

Summary judgment applications are often made against parties who pursue spurious or vexatious action, or seek to rely on evidence, which is particularly weak, or where the claim is potentially out of time. It can also be pursued where a party seeks to amend their particulars or defence at a later stage in the proceedings, in an attempt to introduce fresh claims or change their legal position which is consistent with that party having no real prospect of succeeding at trial with their original pleaded case (CPR 24.2(a)).

What are the advantages of summary judgment?

An advantage of making a summary judgment application is that it provides an opportunity for part or all of a case to be resolved without the need for a final hearing. As a result, overall legal fees can be minimised, with parties saving on the significant costs associated with the various stages of the litigation process. It also saves considerable time as a summary judgment application is typically determined at an early stage of the proceedings, which therefore means an applicant can potentially save many months, or even years, of ongoing litigation.

Applying for summary judgment also forces the opposing party to set out their position and evidence at an early stage in the proceedings. This tactical approach may therefore persuade the opposing party to resolve the matter more quickly and favourably. Even where a summary judgment application is only partially successful, it can help to narrow the issues which are in dispute at a final hearing and may result in the parties settling the remainder of their dispute outside of Court. If part of a claim is dismissed by the Judge following a summary judgment application, it could even result in the Claimant discontinuing proceedings altogether.

If a party succeeds with their summary judgment application, their costs will usually be borne by the unsuccessful party.

In terms of the timing of an application, Claimants are usually only able to apply following the Defendant filing their acknowledgment of service or defence. In contrast, the Defendant can apply for summary judgment at any point in the proceedings. The purpose of this limit imposed upon the Claimant’s position, is to give the Defendant an opportunity to defend the claim(s) made against it before any further action is taken.

The summary judgment procedure is set out in the Civil Procedure Rules which require the following two-stage test to be met:

  1. The claimant or defendant has no real prospect of succeeding on the claim, defence or issue (CPR 24.2(a)), and
  2. There is no other compelling reason why the case or issue should be disposed of at trial (CPR 24.2(b)).

In relation to the first ground, the case of Swain v Hillman (1999) confirmed that the other party does not need to show that they will win their case at trial. Instead, they are required to show that they at least have a realistic chance of winning.

What are the potential disadvantages of a summary judgment application?

The above test is a high standard for an applicant to overcome. Even if the other party cannot show a real prospect of success at trial, they may still be able to establish another compelling reason why a trial is needed. For example, the matters in issue may require further investigation, or cross-examination, which would not be achievable without a final hearing.

If the applicant’s summary judgment application is unsuccessful, they may be required to pay the other party’s costs, in addition to their own. Therefore, it is imperative that the merits of an application are carefully considered in advance.


If you are involved in a dispute where you consider the other party’s pleaded claim or defence has poor prospects of success, applying for summary judgment may be a highly effective solution for you. Our team of litigation experts can review your position to assess whether such an application may be worthwhile pursuing. Our aim is to achieve an expeditious and commercial result, which will avoid the time and costs associated with preparing for and attending a final hearing.

Talk to us

For further information, please contact JMW Solicitors on 0345 872 6666 or by completing our online enquiry form.

This blog was co-authored by Hannah Lavelle and Alex Tickle.

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