Small claims guide

defended actions

The defendant may make a defence against some or all of your claim.

You will be sent a copy of their defence on Form N9B - Defence / counterclaim (specified amount).. You will also be sent an Allocation Questionnaire (Form N149 - Allocation questionnaire (Small claims track) or Form N150 - Allocation Questionnaire) together with a notice stating the date for return of the Allocation form. The name and address to which the form should be returned may be different from the one that issued it.

allocation

The Allocation Questionnaire (Form N149 or N150) is sent to all parties. The court uses the responses to decide which track the case will be allocated to, and where the case will be heard.

Note that if the defendant is a private individual the case will be automatically transferred to their home court. In the case of multiple defendants, transfer is to the home court of the first defendant to lodge their defence.

If you intend to use a witness to support your case, or wish to call on an expert's opinion you should provide details on this form.

For claims over 1500 the claimant has to pay a fee to proceed with the case.

See also: Form N149 - Allocation questionnaire (Small claims track) and Form N150 - Allocation Questionnaire

directions

Once all the Allocation forms have been received by the court, or the time for them to be returned has expired, the court will issue directions to the parties.

The default standard directions state that:

There are alternative standard directions for particular kinds of cases. These include:

Other sets of standard directions may be added in the future.

The court may also make special directions tailored to the needs of a particular case.

It is also possible that the court may decide to hold a preliminary hearing or deal with the matter entirely by paper.

preliminary hearing

The court may decide to hold a preliminary hearing.

The court may do this if the judge wishes to issue 'special directions' and wishes to explain these to the parties in person.

It may also be that, on the statements so far received, the judge feels that there is no point in to a hearing.

The preliminary hearing may result in the case being settled or being struck out. Otherwise the judge will issue directions and the case will proceed to a full hearing.

paper adjudication

The court may suggest that the claim be decided solely on the documents provided rather than at a hearing.

If this happens, the court will send the parties Form N159 - Notice of allocation to the small claims track (no hearing). Either party can object to this. If one party does object, the case will go to a hearing.

expert opinion

The court will decide whether the evidence of an expert will be allowed and whether that evidence will be in the form of a report or given orally.

The expert is under a duty to help the court and this duty overrides their obligation to the person that instructed them or is paying their bill.

The court will try wherever possible to rely on the opinion of a single expert.

preparing for the hearing

You need to make sure that you have complied with all the directions the court has given you.

These directions will usually require that copies of documents are sent to both the court and the other party by within a certain timeframe. Any documents not sent may not be allowed to be used at the hearing.

You should make sure you keep the original versions of any documents and only send out copies to the other parties.

See also: Court Leaflet EX342 - Some things you should know about coming to a court hearing

The court may allow you to bring a witness to the hearing to give evidence in person. If this happens you will need to make sure that your witness knows the date and time of the hearing. You should arrange to meet them some time before the hearing at the court.

See also: Court leaflet: EX341 - I have been asked to be a witness - what do I do?

the hearing

The hearing is an informal process. The judge will decide on how the hearing will be conducted.

The judge can limit the amount of time that each party has to present their case and to question witnesses or each other.

The 'small claims' hearing is a 'public' hearing. It is open to members of the public to attend. A case will usually be heard in the judge's room but can be heard in a court room. Under certain circumstances a judge can decide that a case should be heard in private.

If you are not using a Solicitor, you can still get someone else to speak on your behalf. This person is known as a 'lay representative'. It is preferable that the 'lay representative' isn't also a witness.

court costs

The winning party can claim some costs. The amount of these costs is strictly limited.

The winning party can claim:

If the claim was for more than 5000 and allocated to the 'small claims track' then the winning party can claim additional costs over and above those allowed by the 'small claims track'. However these costs cannot be more than is allowed on the 'fast track'.

after the hearing

After the hearing you will be sent an order or judgment. This will set out the judge's decision.

If either party, gave notice that they would not be attending, you will also receive brief reasons for the judge's decision.

appeals

You can appeal against the decision only in very limited circumstances.

You would need to be able to show some serious irregularity had occurred or that the court made a mistake of law. You cannot appeal simply because you think that the judge made the wrong decision.

You only have 14 days from the date you receive the order to start an appeal.



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