Litigation Advice: What happens after a Defence has been filed?

For the third part of our Litigation Advice blog series, we are discussing what happens once the preparatory stages of a Court Claim are complete. To find out more about the preliminary stages, start with our first entry.

The 3 Tracks of courtroom proceedings

Where a claim has been issued, and the Defendant has filed a Defence in connection with the Claim, the Court will send notice that the claim is being defended and will provisionally allocate the Claim to a ‘Track’ at Court – each Track has its own procedural rules and rules as to who should pay the legal costs.

The different Tracks are:

1. The ‘Small Claims Track’

This Track is usually reserved for money claims of less than £10,000.00. It is the fastest of the three tracks, and the intention is that it is for simpler claims that should not require large amounts of pre-trial preparation and expert evidence – for example, the Court’s permission is required to rely on expert evidence at Trial in this track, and should permission be granted, the Court will limit the amount to be paid for the expert.

An important feature to note in Small Claims is that it is highly unusual that the losing party is ordered to pay the winning party’s legal costs. It is always wise therefore to consider the potential costs involved in such action.

2. The ‘Fast Track’

This Track is utilised for medium value money claims – that is, claims in excess of £10,000 but less than £25,000, and cases where any Trial is not expected to take more than one day. The Court will also consider the complexity of the matter; any claims where evidence from more than one expert per party, or experts in more than two fields are required, will not be suitable for allocation to the Fast Track.

The overall aim of the Court is that Fast Track cases should not take more than 30 weeks to progress from the filing of a Defence to the ultimate hearing of a Trial.

It is of note that in Fast Track cases, costs are a factor that should be considered by either party. Whilst “fixed costs” apply to costs incurred in relation to the Trial (the hearing itself), the usual rule in Fast Track cases is that the losing party should pay the successful party’s legal costs in relation to the action.

3. The ‘Multi Track’

This Track is for larger money claims and matters where it is anticipated that it may be required to obtain evidence from multiple experts. Any claim that is not suitable for the Small Claims Track or the Fast Track will be allocated to the Multi Track.

The Multi Track is the slowest of the three, and it is realistically foreseeable that the matter can take a year or more for a Trial to be heard, and as with the Fast Track, costs should be a consideration for any party. The successful party in a Multi Track claim will usually also receive an Order that the losing party pays their legal costs (as well as their own) – and therefore the financial exposure to a party is a Multi Track claim is potentially significant.

Directions Questionnaire

Whilst the Court will provisionally allocate the claim to a Track after the filing of a Defence, it is a provisional allocation only. The Court will send to each party a form known as a Directions Questionnaire. On all such forms, the parties are asked to confirm whether they agree to the Court’s provisional allocation (and if not their reasons), and it is only when completed Directions Questionnaires are returned that the Court will make its final decision.

For more expert legal advice, Astle Paterson are on your side. Our team of expert Litigation Lawyers’ are on hand to help you resolve your issues as quickly as possible. Read more about our Litigation services, or contact our Litigation department directly.

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