Pretrial Procedure - civil
Notes: pretrialconntract.ppt n1-eng.pdf
The process of taking a claim for a breach of contract to court
Either party to the contract can start the claim for a breach in contract. As this is a civil case the trial will be heard in a civil court.
To start a claim the Claimant (C) will seek advice from a solicitor or complete a court claim form, N1. This can be completed online using the money cliam online process. This form is simple to complete, requiring names and addresses for claimant and defendant, brief details of the claim (such as ‘Damages for breach of contract resulting from the failure of the defendant to complete building works at the agreed time'), and the value of the claim. The purpose of this is to establish the fee payable and to help establish the choice of court and track. The claimant needs to assess the value of his claim as this will help the court decide which court the case will have a trial at. The C must pay a fee for the application based on the size of the claim.
This claim form is then served on the defendant, usually by post. In addition to the claim form, the defendant is sent forms for use in dealing with the claim made
The defendant’s response pack includes an admission form so that the defendant can admit the claim, a defence form to be completed if the claim is not admitted and an acknowledgement of service form, which confirms receipt of the claim. This means that the defendant can do nothing and not reply to the claim at all, admit all or part of the claim, or dispute all or part of the claim. The defendant must do this within 14 days of receiving the claim. If the defendant does not file a defence within 14 days or any extension the court may give, the claimant can file for a default judgment and effectively win the case. The court will then only be concerned with awarding the appropriate amount of damages and costs.
When the claimant receives the defence, the court will also send an allocation questionnaire to all parties to the case. The purpose of this is to establish the location, track and timing of a trial.
The case is monitored by the court using a system called case monitoring. The court uses a computerised diary monitoring system to record court orders and requests, the deadline for the return of documents such as the allocation questionnaire and whether the deadline has been met.
Case management has been introduced to avoid the problem of even quite trivial cases dragging on for years. The judge now has the power to summon the parties to court to find out what is going on in the event of inactivity and then make an appropriate order to speed up the process. Failure to comply can result in the party at fault being prevented from continuing the case.
Once the allocation questionnaires have been completed, a procedural judge (normally a District Judge) will allocate the case to the appropriate track. If a party to a case does not comply with a court order or time limit, that party may be struck out of the action. The effect of this is that the party would be unable to take further part in the case and would lose any right to claim or defend the court action.
After the case has been allocated the court sets a date for the trial. This date will be at least 21 days later, and the actual date will depend on what other directions need to be made.
Allocating the case to a court and a track
In order to try and speed up civil cases going to court, including contract claims the claim is allocated (placed) on a track. A track is the process and court that will deal with both the pre-trial matters and the trial itself. There are three tracks all based on the amount of damages the contract claim involves:
Small Claims track
Deal with cases with a value of upto £10,000 in damages
Only simple cases
Normally the C and D represent themselves and the case is heard in private in front of a district judge, in small claims court. This court is part of the county court.
The emphasis is on little formality.
Deal with cases with a value from £10,000 to £25000 in damages
The case is more complicated.
Barristers or solicitors in the County court will represent the C and D. The case is heard in open court so the public can watch.
The trial will last up to one day
Deal with cases with a value from £25000 and above in damages
Only complex cases
Barristers or solicitors in the High court will represent the C and D. The case is heard in open court so the public can watch.
The trial will last up to a day or more