Civil Law

Bringing or defending a claim in the County Court

 

Civil Law and money claims

Civil claims are brought in the County Court, although claims over £50,000 or those with very complex facts may also be brought in the High Court.

County court claims are usually heard and will be managed by a district judge. They will be dealt with in accordance with the civil procedure rules (CPR). These rules include a number of ‘protocols’ and the overriding objectives of the court which must be complied with.

The Overriding Objectives of the Court

 

The overriding objective is for the court to deal with a case justly and so far as is practical to ensure that:

a) the parties are on an equal footing;
b) expense is saved;
c) the case is dealt with in ways which are proportionate:
a. to the amount of money involved;
b. to the importance of the case;
c. to the complexity of the issues; and
d. to the financial position of each party;
d) the case is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and
e) an appropriate share of the courts resources are alloted, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.

The parties in a case are required to help the court to further these overriding objectives, and the judge is required to actively manage a case by:

a) encouraging the parties to co-operate with each other in the conduct of the proceedings;
b) identifying the issues at an early stage;
c) deciding promptly which issues need full investigation and trial and accordingly disposing summarily of the others;
d) deciding the order in which issues are to be resolved.

(e) encouraging the parties to use an alternative dispute resolution(GL)procedure if the court considers that appropriate and facilitating the use of such procedure;

(f) helping the parties to settle the whole or part of the case;

(g) fixing timetables or otherwise controlling the progress of the case;

(h) considering whether the likely benefits of taking a particular step justify the cost of taking it;

(i) dealing with as many aspects of the case as it can on the same occasion;

(j) dealing with the case without the parties needing to attend at court;

(k) making use of technology; and

(l) giving directions to ensure that the trial of a case proceeds quickly and efficiently.

 

Preparing your case

 

Preparation is the secret of success in all civil claims. You need to understand the legal principles which apply to your case. Try to resolve your dispute out of court if possible. Be aware of any protocols and practice directions which apply. Pre-action protocols are the steps which someone must take before commencing court proceedings. They basically provide for early disclosure of documents and information, to encourage settlement and avoid the need for court action. There are separate published protocols for different civil claims, and even where no protocol exists, the court will expect a case to be dealt with in the same spirit as an approved protocol. Costs penalties are likely to be imposed if a protocol is not complied with.

Remember always that court proceedings should always be the last resort. There are a number of alternatives, and they should always be tried before rushing into court action. We have a guide which explains here.

 

Money Claims

Money claims can now be issued and dealt with online from the Money Claims Center in Salford. If defended, the case will then be transferred to the County Court Hearing Center for the district where the defendant lives. Non money claims can still be issued out of the claimant’s local county court. Certain types of cases have to be brought or will be transferred, if defended, to the court for the area where the claimant lives. 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 £50,000 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, where is no standard procedure. Each case will be managed by a judge individually, usually by calling a case conference, which all parties will attend, and where directions will be given.

Our Civil Law Department contains a load of information to help you deal with a civil law matter. There are a number of eBooks and downloads you can download and our lawyers are available to assist where required. We have information pages dealing with the following topics and blogs with more specific information.

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