The small claims court is affectionately known as the basement of British Justice.
This is where disputes involving small amounts are addressed by a district judge. A small claim these days is anything up to £10,000. Trivia lovers will like that in 1975 the upper limit was £75. There are murmurings of an increase to an upper limit of £20,000, but this awaits to be seen, at the moment it’s £10,000, so we live with that.
The disputes are often astonishingly petty but as one commentator has remarked they can “frequently raise questions of law which would be worthy of a day and a half in the Supreme Court and a dissenting judgment or two”.
And so it is here that our clients at Lawgistics find themselves defending their liability against the often spurious claims of a consumer unhappy with the car they bought for one reason or another and unable to resolve the matter between them end up at a hearing in the county court.
If a claim is made against you it is important to respond in time. Failure to do this can result in a default judgement against a defendant and an application to set this aside incurs a fee. You will also need to give the court a plausible explanation as to why you failed to submit a defence in the first instance.
After submitting a defence to the claim the matter will proceed to a full hearing if not resolved between the parties beforehand or by way of mediation, which will take place ahead of any full hearing if both parties tick the box to say they are open to it.
A well prepared defence can be very effective and often matters don’t proceed beyond this point. There is a hearing fee for the Claimant to pay and matters can be settled at any point between the parties. Settlement is encouraged throughout the process.
If your case does proceed to a full hearing we advise that the Director of the Defendant company who submitted the witness statement attends in person, although legal counsel can be instructed to accompany you. Judges prefer attendance in person.
In civil matters judgements are made on the balance of probabilities, not beyond a reasonable doubt as in criminal cases.
The winner must bear his own legal costs unless he can satisfy the district judge that the loser has behaved unreasonably. It is highly unusual to be awarded costs in the small claims track.