The Court Process Explained – Part 2
In the second of the series, Greg Porter, dispute resolution specialist, explains Steps 3 – 5 of the court process: Acknowledgement of Service and Defence, Allocation and Disclosure.
If you missed the first steps, you can find it here: https://www.butcher-barlow.co.uk/court-process-explained-part-1/.
Please note that this article is intended as a basic overview of the civil court process only. The Court process and the underlying law being applied to a particular case is complex and you should always seek legal advice from a professional before entering into legal proceedings. This article is not a substitute for such legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Butcher & Barlow LLP do not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage caused by reliance upon this article.
Step 3 – Acknowledgement of Service & Defence
Once the Defendant has been served with the Claim Form & Particulars of Claim, they must file an Acknowledgement of Service or a Defence to the claim at Court within 14 days. The Acknowledgment of Service is a document served with the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim which the Defendant must complete and return to the Court indicating whether the claim is admitted or denied. If the Defendant files an Acknowledgement of Service they will then have a further 14 days (28 days in total) to file and serve a Defence.
The Defence is the Defendant’s formal response to the Particulars of Claim and sets out precisely which elements of the Particulars of Claim are admitted and denied and the reasons for this.
Again, it is vital that the Defence accurately sets out the Defendant’s position. We would recommend that anyone served with Court proceedings seek professional legal advice straight away.
If the Defendant does not file an Acknowledgment of Service or Defence within the time limits set out above, the Claimant may apply to the Court for Default Judgment, which is a Court order that the Claimant’s case is accepted in principle.
The consequences of this vary depending upon the type of claim. If the Claimant is claiming a specific sum of money, such as an unpaid invoice, the Defendant will be ordered to pay the full amount claimed straight away.
If the Claim is for a non-specific sum, such as damages for personal injury, the Court will make a series of directions, requiring the Claimant to take certain steps, such as obtaining medical evidence as to the extent of their injuries. The Court will then list a short hearing called a disposal hearing, at which the evidence will be reviewed and the Court will decide on the amount of damages to be awarded.
Step 4 – Allocation
If the Defendant defends the claim, the Court will order that both parties complete a Directions Questionnaire (Form N180 or N181 depending upon the value of the claim) and return it to the Court by a specified date. It will also be necessary for the parties to try and agree a series of Directions for the conduct of the claim. Some types of claim also require the parties to draft and attempt to agree a Costs Budget, which will set out the maximum amount of costs each party is permitted to recover from the other in the event that their claim is successful.
Depending upon the type of case and whether the directions/costs budgets have been agreed between the parties, the Court will then either make a Directions Order on paper or may list a short Court hearing to discuss the Directions with the parties.
The standard directions which may be ordered by the Court are as follows, although in some cases these may vary substantially.
Step 5 – Disclosure
The first direction of the Court will usually be for both parties to conduct a search for any documents which are relevant to the issues in dispute. The parties must then complete a Disclosure List and send this to the opposing party. There is an obligation upon both parties to disclose the existence of all relevant documents, even if they do not support their own case. However, some documents, such as advice received from a solicitor or barrister are subject to privilege. These documents should still be referred to in the Disclosure List but the opposing party will not be entitled to see the same.
Once the Disclosure Lists have been exchanged the parties should then request copies of any documents they wish to see from the opposing party and these must be provided within the time limit set out by the Court.
In the next article, Greg will explain steps 6-8:
Step 6: Witness Statements
Step 7: Expert Evidence
Step 8: Trial
Greg can be contacted at our Northwich office on 01606 47523 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.