Appealing a “Small Claim” in the County Court – DON’T!

Last summer our client went to court to defend a small claim for an allegedly defective vehicle.  Usual story, the likelihood of a successful defence is largely based on how consumer friendly or realistic the Judge is.  Here we had £3500 car, 76000 miles or thereabouts, sought rejection after three months with approximately 3600 additional miles on the clock.  The type we deal with day in, day out.  

The Deputy District Judge went on to rule in favour of the consumer/Claimant despite stating that there “was nothing apparently wrong” with the car at the point of sale.  But exclaiming that it cannot be right that a consumer had to pay for substantial repairs so soon after purchase.  Going on, as he did, to say that “anyone who buys a second hand car of this age, state and mileage, should be entitled to run the vehicle without major expense for at least two years.”  Yes, that is right – TWO YEARS!  Some 24,000 extra miles if the average of 1000 miles a month is used.  The Judge allowed full refund minuns a small amount for use and the return of the car.

Our client and his advocate were beyond apoplectic.  This opinion flew in the face of far higher ranking judges and courts than that of this Deputy District Judge.  Client wanted to appeal.  We understood why and prepared the required appeal documents.  Well, not quite, for you have to apply for PERMISSION to appeal first of all.  The paperwork itself is not too onerous - except for getting a typed transcript of the Judgment, which you have to get the chronically slow court to send to a transcriber and then the Judge who gave the decision has to approve it - which again takes time.  

Permission to Appeal was considered by a Circuit Judge “on the papers” and she determined that permission was to be REFUSED on the basis that the appeal would have NO PROSPECT OF SUCCESS.  She went on to say that whilst the Judge might not have been correct insofar as two years trouble-free motoring was concerned, he had established as a matter of fact that the car was not sold in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act.  Matters of fact not being capable of being appealed.

Of course, if his (flawed) opinion was that a buyer had two years entitlement of use before having to incur major expense then that was clearly instrumental in his finding of “fact” the way that he did.  Despite being refused permission to appeal initially, our undeterred client asked to be heard in person.  They instructed a barrister at a cost who managed to convince the Circuit Judge at a hearing to GRANT permission to appeal and that the appeal itself was to be considered on the point of “durability” at a later date.

More paperwork and court bundles were prepared and sent to the court.  The same barrister was appointed at a greater cost for the appeal hearing.  Turn up and the court says that they have not received the court bundle and that the Judge will not hear it unless it is e-mailed immediately - and only if she has the time to do it.  Whilst the e-mails were attended to the parties sat down with their respective barristers.   Facing the prospect of an adjournment, yet ANOTHER hearing and ANOTHER expense for their respective barristers the parties agreed to settle.  For £2500 plus the return of the car.

The moral of the story is that principles cost money.  Unfortunately that is money that has to be paid for by the parties in dispute and not the courts themselves - whose incompetence goes with out reproach.  No matter how bad the decision is in a small claims court hearing  the advice is simple.  Don’t even think about appealing it. 

Lawgistics Members can get advice on this and other legal matters by contacting the legal team on 01480 455500.


Authors: Jason Williams

Published: 31 May 2019


To ensure you are a real person signing up and to prevent automated signups (spamming) could we ask you to copy the letters and numbers shown below into the box.

(cAse SeNSItivE!)

Village motors (09/07/2019)
Yes been there and done that with a very similar story. It took a lot of time money and effort to eventually get the correct legal outcome on appeal, but I would add to the article with the comments that rather judicial incompetence, to me it felt much more like deliberate obstruction. Paper work ‘lost’ letters never received/sent appeal dates rescheduled on the hearing day, unreasonable judgements made etc. They aim to run the small independent out of business and don’t want these matters brought before them. Shameful
BeggarsBelief (09/07/2019)
Totally agree with DayInCourt. Having been a Complainant and taken a person/company to court within the last year, there is a secondary issue here which is that the overall administration of the Courts system is massively flawed. Don't even attempt to get through to speak to anyone as you will be met with a brick wall of answerphones and automated email responses which are rarely followed up. In my case paperwork went missing, refunds of fees (original application had to be changed) were not forthcoming without constant chasing and dates listed for the hearing were cancelled that morning despite having to travel 90 miles and having already done so, the list goes on. If it were a business it would have gone bust years ago. Ultimately it made it beyond stressful for all those involved. Clearly the whole system needs shaking up.
Jason Williams - Lawgistics Ltd (12/06/2019)
You take the words right out of our mouths!
DayInCourt (12/06/2019)
Surely what this case highlights is the need of a mechanism for scrutiny and oversight of the judiciary to which instances such as this could be referred for investigation. In medicine practitioners can be sanctioned by their professional body for their conduct. Why should the judiciary not be similarly answerable?

Share this Article