Small claims and litigants in person
Small claims matter where the Claimant is a litigant in person and loses a total of £1,262.54 at Trial
I was recently instructed to act for a Defendant in a small claims matter.
The subject matter of the dispute is not relevant and nor is the case name. However, the outcome may shock some potential litigants in person as the Defendant was awarded a higher proportion of his costs. In short the Claimant left having not recovered his issue fee(£185) or hearing fee(£335) and with an order to pay my client their costs in the sum of £722.54 (normally the maximum recoverable is a sum no greater than £280).
Here are some of the key areas that caused the Judge to award more than the usual fixed costs:-
1. Incorrect Party names.
The subject matter of the dispute involved the Claimant and his wife and the Defendant and his wife. The Claimant brought the claim in his name alone against the Defendant in his name alone
2. Attempted to rely on irrelevant areas of law
The Claimant referred to Consumer Protection Legislation. The subject matter of the dispute involved the parties as individuals and was nothing to do with their businesses. Consumer Protection Legislation is only relevant where one person is a consumer and the other is a person acting in the course of their business.
3. Lack of evidence
The Claimant ignored Court Orders by failing to provide any evidence of his losses. The Claimant attempted to plead that the Defendant had not asked for evidence of the sums due; one party does not have to ask the other party for documents. If you want to rely on it you have to disclose it!
4. Attempting to submit witness evidence after the Court deadline had expired
On arrival at Court I had prepared a skeleton argument. An hour before the hearing I approached the Claimant and asked if he had received my skeleton. He replied no and so I provided him with a copy. When we got into the Court room the Judge referred to 2 witness statements (I only had one) and the Claimant attempted to provide the Court with a further witness statement at Trial. The Judge was clearly thoroughly unimpressed and explained that there is one date for submission of witness evidence and documents on which parties intend to reply and turning up at Trial and submit further evidence, let alone without attempting to provide the other party with a copy was simply not on.
5. Failing to meet the evidential burden of proof generally
The judge just generally didn’t accept the Claimant’s version of events.
So, in short the small claims track is wonderful in that litigants in person have the right to attend court to recover sums of money up to £10,000 without having to instruct solicitors and risk bearing the substantial costs of the other party even if they aren’t successful. However, what the small claims court isn’t there to do is to hear about any gripe that you may have with another person which is not legitimately and coherently put before it in compliance with court rules and procedure.
If the Claimant had telephoned me to discuss his potential claim I could have told him free of charge in about 5 minutes that he had no claim. Instead he issued a claim incorrectly on his own without seeking legal advice and paid the costs.
If you have a claim that you would like to discuss please feel free to call me. On the provision of brief details I can advise whether I think you have a claim, and if you do what evidence you will need to be successful in recovering that sum. I will advise you upfront of any costs that you will incur in my provision of those services.
I can assure you that in the above instance had the Claimant sought my help before he issued the claim, even if I had charged him for a detailed advice or initial meeting, I still would have saved him an awful lot of time, money and a stern dressing down by a very unimpressed Judge.