Civil claims are with few exceptions brought in the County Court. It is usually most convenient to bring the action in your local County Court, but certain types of cases have to be brought or will be transferred if defended to the Court for the area where the Defendant lives. Claims over £50,000 may also be brought in the High Court.
County court claims are usually heard by a district judge and will be dealt with in accordance with the civil procedure rules. These rules include a number of ‘protocols’ and objectives which must be complied with. The overriding objective is to deal with the case justly and so far as is practical to ensure that:
- the parties are on an equal footing;
- expense is saved;
- the case is dealt with in ways which are proportionate
- to the amount of money involved;
- to the importance of the case;
- to the complexity of the issues; and
- to the ﬁnancial position of each party;
- ensuring that the case is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and
- allotting to it an appropriate share of the courts resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.
The parties are required to help the court to further these overriding objectives and the judge is required to actively manage a case by:-
- encouraging the parties to co-operate with each other in the conduct of the proceedings;
- identifying the issues at an early stage;
- deciding promptly which issues need full investigation and trial and accordingly disposing summarily of the others;
- deciding the order in which issues are to be resolved.
Claims under £10,000 will usually be allocated to the small claims track and dealt with under a special, less formal procedure. The amount of costs which the winning side can recover is strictly limited.
Claims of between £10,000 and £25,000 are likely to be allocated to the fast track. This track is appropriate where the documentation to prove the case is not extensive, where any expert evidence can be given in writing, where the time to prepare for trial does not exceed 30 weeks, and where the trial is not likely to last for more than one day.
All other cases will be allocated to the Multi-Track. There is no standard procedure. Each case will be managed by a judge, usually by calling a case conference, which all parties will attend, and where directions will be given.