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ALDRIDGE BROWNLEE

GUIDE TO DISPUTE RESOLUTION THROUGH THE CIVIL COURTS 

This guide is intended to help you understand the likely Court procedure and timescales involved in your matter and help you work with us to furthering your case.  This is not an exhaustive guide and will not apply to all cases. 


PRE-ACTION

Court proceedings should always be used as a last resort to resolve any dispute.  Therefore before starting Court proceedings the parties should be able to demonstrate that they have made attempts to resolve the matter.  The Claimant generally will need to have issued a Letter of Claim/Letter Before Action and have given the Defendant an opportunity to reply to the same. 

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ISSUE

Following pre-action correspondence the matter will need to be issued at County Court or High Court by way of a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim.  This sets out what the Claim is for and how the Claim arose in the first instant.  A Court fee is payable at this stage.  The party issuing the Claim is known as the Claimant.  The Court will then serve the Defendant with a copy of the Claim Form and the Particulars of Claim.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SERVICE

The Defendant has 14 days from the date of service (receipt) to file with the Court an Acknowledgment of Service form.  This notifies the Court if the Defendant intends to defend all or part of the Claim. Failure by the Defendant to file this may resort in default Judgment being entered in favour of the Claimant.

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DEFENCE

If the Defendant seeks to defend the claim in full or in part he must file his Defence at the same time as the Acknowledgment of Service or within 28 days from the date of service of the Claim Form and Particulars.  Failure by the Defendant to file a Defence within the correct timescale may resort in default Judgment being entered against the Defendant.  

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DIRECTIONS QUESTIONNAIRE

This is a tick box type form giving the Court relevant information to decide how best to manage the case through to trial.  All parties must complete this.  It covers things like trial length estimates, how many witnesses will be required, if there is a need for Expert Witness evidence and alike.  The Court will set a deadline for these to be filed.  

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STANDARD DIRECTIONS – ALLOCATION;

On receipt of each parties Directions Questionnaire the Court will make an Order setting out a timetable of directions to get the case ready for trial.  Depending on the value and complexity of the issues cases will be allocated to the Small Claims Track (generally claims under £10,000), or the Fast Track (claims between £10,000 - £25,000) or the Multi Track (claims over £25,000).  The Small Claims Track is a less formal procedure and is a simplified version of the following directions.  Legal costs on the Small Claims Track are borne by each party and generally are not recoverable from the losing party.  However costs on both the Fast Track and Multi Track are recoverable, with the losing party generally being ordered to pay the majority of the winning parties costs.

After Allocation each party is expected to comply with the directions and timescales set by the Court, failure to comply may result in your case being thrown out. Generally directions for Fast Track and Multi Track cases are as follows:-

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DISCLOSURE

(4 weeks from notice of Allocation)

Each party must produce a list of all the evidence relevant to the case; this must include not only evidence in support of your case but also that which is detrimental to your case.  You should not destroy any relevant documents.  The parties then swap lists.  

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INSPECTION

After exchange of the Disclosure Lists each party, normally within 14 days of receipt of the List, can request copies of documents from the other side’s list that they do not have. 

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WITNESS STATEMENTS

(10 weeks from notice of Allocation)

Each party must serve written witness statements from those witnesses they are seeking to give evidence at Trial and wish to rely on.  Failure to serve a witness statement may mean that a witness cannot give evidence at the Trial. 

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EXPERT WITNESSES

Not all cases will require Expert Witnesses however in Fast Track cases concerning technical issues it is likely the Court will Order a Single Joint Expert to be appointed.  This Expert will produce a report for the Court’s benefit.

On Multi Tracks cases where it is not suitable to appoint a Single Joint Expert the Court may Order that each party instruct their own Experts to produce reports, again the reports are produced for the benefit of the Court.  The Experts are likely to then meet and compare their findings in Order to narrow the issues for the Court. 

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PRE-TRIAL CHECKLISTS

 (22 weeks from notice of Allocation)

This is a form similar to the Directions Questionnaire and allows the Court to consider if all previous directions set down have been met and complied with and if the case is ready for Trial.  The Claimant is required to pay a hearing fee at this stage. If all directions have been complied with the Court will set a date for the trial. 

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TRIAL

Small Claims Track hearing – 15-20 weeks from Notice of Allocation – listed for approximately 2 hours

Fast Track hearing – approximately 30 weeks from notice of Allocation – listed for 1 day normally

Multi Track hearing – 40-50 weeks from notice of Allocation – listed for 2 days plus

 

All parties and witnesses must attend the Trial.

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