Civil Claims in the County Court
This book is a straightforward and practical guide for those bringing or defending a civil case in the county courts of England and Wales. It does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to the law and procedure rules, but contains an overview of each stage of bringing or defending a civil claim. It covers the basics and will help you prepare, manage and present a civil case, and understand where more specific help or research is needed and how it can be obtained.
Being a litigant in person can be a daunting experience, but fortunately 90% of what is needed to run a case is either common sense or administrative work, which most people can carry out themselves with minimal guidance. A judge is required to ensure a level playing ground and make sure that a litigant in person is not unfairly disadvantaged. It is, however, for each side to prepare and present their case themselves, as the judge must remain impartial. This book shows you how to do this.
The author’s intention is for the book to tread the middle ground between a law book and an ‘idiot’s guide’. It is written on the presumption that although you may find knowing a bit about the law and court procedure useful and interesting, your main purpose will be dealing with your case rather than becoming an amateur lawyer. It is a book intended for the litigant in person who will deal with a legal matter themselves, and contains what needs to be known, explained in everyday language.
Remember that you will not be alone. The near abolition of legal aid for civil cases and the high cost of legal representation has of necessity resulted in many people having to represent themselves in court without a lawyer. It is either that or not having access to the courts. Our hope is that this book will make the task of dealing with a court case a little less formidable
This book does not set out to pretend that civil litigation is easy. It’s not. A lawyer will have spent three or four years learning the law, and then another two or three as an apprentice before even suggesting that they are a competent civil litigator. That will only come after many years of experience. You are not going to be able to match them by reading this book.
No more does this book suggest that it can teach you all the law and procedure needed to run a civil case. The civil litigator’s bible is the ‘White Book’. It comes in two large volumes and costs around £750. You would not find it easy reading. The Civil Procedure Rules which guide all civil cases are not written to be reader friendly, are constantly being amended and stretch to hundreds of pages with many practice directions.
What this book does do is presume that you have no great wish to be a lawyer. It might be interesting and useful to know something, but primarily you are here because you have a problem. You are caught up in a dispute which has all the indications of having to be resolved by a court. Handing it over to a solicitor to deal is another problem, for what could be a multitude of reasons. What you want is to know whether it is going to be possible for you to successfully act in person. Like the answer to so many questions, the answer is maybe.
If you are to handle your own case, first put out of your mind any thoughts that it will be won or lost on the day of the trial before a judge. Cases are won by careful preparation, carried out long before a case hits the courtroom. Cases turn on the evidence put before the judge. Preparing this evidence and presenting it as it must be presented is very much something which, with a little guidance, a litigant in person can do themselves. 90% of what is needed to manage, prepare and present a case is either common sense or administrative work, which most people can carry out themselves without difficulty, providing that they have the time, commitment and organisation skills to invest. If so, this book will help you prepare a winning case.
You are also going to need to know something of tactics. Civil litigation is not dissimilar to a chess game or a sword fight. It is important to know when to attack and when to withdraw.
You must know and understand the weapons available to you. These are largely there for the taking within the Civil Procedure Rules. They will be pointed out to you. Self-representing can be a daunting experience. The court however has a duty to ensure a
level playing field and make sure that a litigant in person is not disadvantaged. A judge must ensure a fair trial, but he or she cannot run your case for you or give legal advice.
They must remain impartial, and it is for each side in a dispute to prepare and present their case themselves for the judge to decide. The role of the judge is to determine the facts of a case and apply these to the law. Your role will be to present the facts to their best advantage, in accordance with the court rules. The purpose of this book is to help you do this.
What this book also does is provide an overview of how to conduct and manage a civil case in the county court, which is likely to be dealt with under the fast or multitrack. It contains advice and guidance on each stage in bringing a case allocated to these tracks to trial. It covers the ‘basics’ of preparation and presentation of a case, and will help in understanding where more specific help is needed and how it can be obtained.
Nobody would suggest that going to court is a pleasant experience and this book
emphasises that it should be avoided whenever possible.
Chapter 1. First Considerations 8
Can I realistically deal with this myself? 8
What help could be available? 8
Is the defendant worth suing? 9
Evaluate your case constructively and impartially 10
Chapter 2. Alternatives to legal proceedings 11
Expert determination 13
Chapter 3. Pre-action protocols 5
The letter of claim 16
Letter before action 18
Chapter 4. The civil courts 19
The small claims track 19
The fast track 20
The multitrack 20
The rules of court 20
Chapter 5. Issuing a claim 23
The claim form 23
Online claims 24
The parties to a claim 25
Chapter 6. The particulars of claim 27
Court fees 30
Chapter 7. Defending a claim. 32
Entering a defence 33
Chapter 8. Early judgements 38
Applications to set aside a default judgement 38
Summary judgement 39
Striking out a claim 39
Chapter 9. Offers to settle 41
Without prejudice letters 42
Discontinuing a claim 42
Chapter 10. Managing the case 44
Small claims track directions 45
Fast and multitrack directions 45
Case management conferences (CMC) 46
Requests for further information 46
Chapter 11. Interim applications 48
Making an application 48
Security for costs 49
Freezing orders 50
Unless orders 50
Chapter 12. Disclosure of documents 51
Specific disclosure 51
Pre-action disclosure 52
Third party disclosure 52
Inspection of documents 52
Chapter 13. Witness statements 53
Exchange of witness statements 54
Further witness statements. 54
Reluctant witnesses 54
Chapter 14. Expert evidence 56
Single joint expert 56
Chapter 15. Preparing for the hearing 58
Pre-trial reviews 58
Case summaries 58
Pre-trial check lists (or listing questionnaires) 58
Skeleton arguments 59
Trial bundles 59
McKenzie friends 60
Chapter 16. The hearing 61
Settling on the steps of the court 61
Final submissions 63
Litigant in person’s costs 64
Chapter 17. Appeals. 66
Grounds for appeal 66
Chapter 18. Injunctions. 67
Interim injunctions 68
Undertaking as to damages 69
Application procedure for an injunction 69
Urgent applications and applications ‘without notice’ 70
Types of Injunctions 71
Common law injunctions 71
Employment injunctions 71
Protection from harassment injunctions 71
Breach of injunction orders 72
Chapter 19. Enforcing judgement 73
Orders to obtain information (oral examination) 73
Warrant of control 74
Attachment of earnings orders. 75
Third party charging orders 77
Charging orders 77
Statutory demands 79
Example Particulars of claim 80