Before proceedings are commenced, parties should examine whether the amount that may be recovered justifies the expense of taking any action.
This guide will provide information on what cases can be processed through the small claims track, and guidance on the recovery of costs.
The Small Claims Track is a simplified and less formal procedural system designed to deal with lower value claims. It is often a quicker and cheaper alternative as there is no need for pre-hearing preparation of the case and it is possible, and often advisable, for litigants to represent themselves.
Claims usually allocated to the small claims track
Claims for a sum which is less than £5,000 will be allocated for arbitration in front of a district judge. Claims for a sum which is for more than £5,000 will be held in open court. The decision of allocation is at the discretion of the court.
A claim allocated to the small claims track should be issued in the County Court, at a County Court hearing centre. A fee is payable on issue which will depend on the value of the claim.
In the small claims track, parties must only disclose documents on which they intend to rely. If you think the other side is in possession of a document that supports your case, you can write to them first requesting inspection and if they do not oblige, you can apply for a special direction that they disclose it to court.
The standard rules on disclosure do not apply in small claims. The definition of ‘document’ is not considered to include anything other than a hard copy. If you need it to include electronic documents or evidence, you must specify this and request a special direction.
The court may give directions regarding:
Usual provisions dealing with expert evidence do not apply to small claims and expert evidence must be restricted to what is really needed to resolve the dispute.
Interim injunctions are available in small claims.
There is a free mediation service available for small claims if all parties indicate on their directions questionnaire that they agree to mediation.
Small claims are generally held in public and in practice are in the judge’s room, but may be in court. They are informal and judges have flexibility about how they deal with matters to ensure that the hearing is fair.
Strict rules of evidence do not apply, the court need not take evidence on oath and the court may limit cross-examination.
Only limited costs are recoverable on claims and in the small claims track.
The following costs are recoverable:
The court may also award:
Costs incurred before a claim has been allocated to the small claims track will be recoverable on the small claims basis, to a very limited extent.
Copyright © 2013 - Oury Clark.