In this article we set out the process of the Small Claims Court. Remember, Personal Injury Claims up to £1,000 and Contract Claims up to £5,000 (CPR 26.6) can be pursued in this court – however – remember – these limits will increase in the near future so bringing more Consumers into self-litigation in the Small Claims Court.
The guiding Rules are found in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) for England & Wales. These rules set out what will happen through the process and you will find as you start to receive documentation from the Court that references to these rules will be made!
To help you understand the nature of the rule, we offer the following summary of Rule 27:
- Part 27.2 – This details what type of cases will not be heard in the Small Claims Court;
- Part 27.3 – This grants the Court the power to provide a remedy or decision that can be given in any other court;
- Part 27.4 – This details what happens to prepare for the hearing. After the case has been officially ‘allocated’ to the Small Claims Court, the court will:
- Provide ‘standard’ directions – in other words – a timetable and fix a date for a final hearing, or
- Give ‘special’ directions (these are additional directions) and fix a date for a final hearing, or
- Give ‘special’ directions and by 28 days thereafter consider further directions, or
- Fix a date for a preliminary or early hearing (usually to determine matters), or
- Give notice that the court intends to deal with the case without a hearing – the court will invite the parties to agree.
- In addition:
- The court will give the date for a final hearing with 21 days notice or less if the parties agree, and
- The court will advise how much time is allocated for the hearing;
- The rule also sets out duties/responsibilities that flow from the ‘directions’ – each party ‘shall’ at least 14 days before the date of the final hearing file and serve on each party copies of documents and experts reports they intend to rely on.
- Part 27.5 – This concerns expert evidence – simply, they cannot give written or oral evidence at a hearing without the permission of the court;
- Part 27.6 – This provides the process for preliminary hearings. The court can only hold a preliminary hearing if:
- It considers that ‘special directions’ are needed to ensure a fair hearing, and
- It’s necessary for the parties to attend the hearing to make sure they understand what they have to do to comply with those ‘special directions’, or
- To dispose of the case because one party has no chance of succeeding, or
- To allow the court to strike out – in other words finish a case completely – because the court considers that there are no grounds to bring or defend a claim;
- In deciding to hold such a hearing, the court must have regard to the expense of such a hearing on the parties;
- The court must give 14 days notice for such a hearing;
- The Court can dispose of the case - in other words treat it as a final hearing – if the parties agree;
- At the preliminary hearing, the Court can fix the date for the final hearing, giving the parties 21 days notice and they can choose to accept less notice if they wish. They will be told how much time will be given to hear the case and where necessary, further ‘directions’ will be given.
- Part 27.7 – This gives a power to the court to add to, vary or cancel directions.
- Part 27.8 – At the hearing, the court will:
- Conduct the hearing by adopting any method it considers to be fair;
- Hearings are informal;
- Strict rules of evidence do not apply;
- Evidence on oath is not always necessary;
- Cross-examination can be limited;
- The Court must give reasons for its decisions.
- Part 27.9– This Part sets out the consequences for the non-attendance of either the Claimant or the Defendant which includes the notice that must be given and the consequences of the failure to give notice or failing to attend – it includes having your case ‘struck-out’ or if the defendant fails to comply, to decide the case in favour of the Claimant!
- Part 27.10 – This gives the power to the Court to deal with the claim, if the parties agree, without their attendance.
- Part 27.11 – This provides the process when a decision of the court may be set-aside – this usually applies when a party did not attend (and did not give notice) or was unrepresented.
This is potentially an important provision, particularly if you can show that you have a good prospect of success at any future final hearing!
- Part 27.14–This relates to costs and should be read!
- Part 27.15 – This makes clear that if the case is moved from the Small Claims Court to a Higher Court the costs regime of the Small Claims Court ceases on that date and the new costs regime of the higher court applies from the date it arrives in the higher court!
In addition to the Rules, they are supplemented by Practice Directions which provide additional practical rules to allow for the smooth running of the main rules
We would suggest, along with our other guides on taking legal action that you also read the detail of the CPR along with this guide – this will help you understand the process!