Letter of Claim
The first step of any dispute is for the claimant to put the defendant on notice of the claim and to allow the defendant the opportunity to resolve the matter before proceedings are issued. The letter of claim should set out the background of the dispute, what they are seeking in order for the dispute to be resolved and provide an opportunity for the defendant to propose an amicable solution. If no response or no satisfactory response is obtained, after 21 days, the claimant can issue proceedings.
The Claim Form
The Claim Form or N1 form, can be obtained from the HMCTS website and is self-explanatory. The form must be filled in and the particulars of claim on the second page, should be completed, setting out again, briefly the background to the dispute and what the claimant is seeking. Once completed, the form should be sent to the CCMCC either by post or online. There will be a fee to pay depending upon the amount being sought by the claimant, although there is a slight reduction if the matter is issued online.
Once the claim form has been received by the court, they will send a copy to the defendant who will have 14 days in which to file and serve their acknowledgement of service and then a further 14 days to file and serve their defence. If either document is not filed and served, the claimant can request judgment in default- which is a mechanism whereby the Court can make judgment for the Claimant in the absence of any response from the Defendant. This will be judgment for the claimant and save for enforcement, will bring the matter to a close, however, it is not a judgment based upon any finding of fact, it is simply because the defendant failed to comply with the tight and strict deadline.
Assuming that a defence has been filed, the court will then inform both parties that it is a defended claim and the claimant and defendant will need to complete a Small Claims Track Directions Questionnaire. This is a short form which allows that court to allocate the matter to the correct local county court (usually the court closest to the defendant). The form will ask for information which includes the number of witnesses that each party will call as well as allowing each party to set out at date they have to avoid.
Upon receiving the Directions Questionnaire back from the parties, the matter will be allocated to the relevant court and they will send out small claims track directions. Whilst these can vary slightly depending upon the nature of the matter, they usually consist of stating that each party should disclose all the documents they have in relating to the matter and to file and serve witness statements no later than 14 days before the hearing and that originals of the same must be taken to court. The matter will also be listed for a final hearing.
The trial will most likely be listed for between 2-3 hours. Judges are very used to dealing with litigant in person and they will allow both parties to present their case. If there is anything that the judge is not sure about or wants to check they will ask. Once the judge has heard from both parties, they will make their decision and give their ruling.
At Hanne & Co we have significant amount of experience in dealing with litigation at all levels and are happy to discuss your case and provide advice if necessary. We also offer a fixed fee meeting if required.