1. Decide whether to defend the claim

Whilst there is less risk in the small claims court of having to pay the Claimant's legal costs if you lose the case, the first decision you have to make it whether you wish to defend the claim.

Notwithstanding the lower risk of paying your opponent's legal costs, you also need to consider the time and stress which defending a court case can take up.

You should research the legal position, and if necessary seek professional advice, to determine whether you have a legal defence to the claim being made against you.

If you need help getting legal advice please click here to provide further details and documents and we will help you find some legal advice for a fixed fee.

2. Acknowledge service of the claim

If you have decided to defend the claim, you either need to file at court an acknowledgment of service form (click here for the form) or a defence. Both the acknowledgment of service form and Defence form should have been in the 'Response Pack' served with the claim.

You have 14 days from service of the claim to either file your acknowledgment of service or defence. If you file an acknowledgment of service, you will have 28 dates from deemed service of the claim to file your defence at Court.

Service will be deemed to have been successfully completed 2 days after the court has sent the papers. If the claimant has served the papers there may be a different date for deemed service so it would be prudent to check with the court when deemed service has taken place.

CPR10 governs acknowledging service of the claim and the consequences of failing to do so. In short if you fail to acknowledge service or defend the claim by the deadline, judgement in default could be entered against you.

3. Defending the claim

Civil Procedure Rules (('CPR') Part 15 (click here for CPR15) governs the submission of a defence. 

In particular you should note the consequences of not filing a defence at court (see CPR 15.3). Basically you risk a judgement in default being entered against you.

Particular attention is drawn to CPR 22 which requires a defence to be verified by a statement of truth.

CPR 32.14 sets out the consequences of signing a statement of truth when a defence contains false statements. 

4. Drafting your Defence

The 2 main ways of drafting a defence are:

1. Set out your response to the claim in an order of your choosing;

Or

2. Respond paragraph by paragraph to the claim.

Depending on how the claim is presented will dictate which you choose e.g. if the claim does not use numbered paragraphs, option 2 will be difficult.

However, if there are numbered paragraphs, given the requirements of CPR16.5 (see below), responding paragraph by paragraph is often the best way. 

CPR16.5 requires that a defence must state –

(a) which of the allegations in the particulars of claim you deny - in otherwords, the allegations you dispute;
(b) which allegations you are unable to admit or deny, but which you require the claimant to prove; and
(c) which allegations you admit.

You can see why method 2 for drafting the defence, where there are numbered paragraphs, it is easier to respond by either denying the allegation, asking the Claimant to prove the allegation or admitting the allegation.

Denials

Where you deny an allegation –

(a) you must state your reasons for doing so; and
(b) if you intend to put forward a different version of events from that given by the claimant, you must state your own version.

Failure to deal with an allegation

If you:
(a) fail to deal with an allegation; but
(b) set out in your defence the nature of your case in relation to the issue to which that allegation is relevant, it shall be taken that you require the allegation to be proved.

However it is important that you deal with the allegation in some way, otherwise you risk your silence on the issue being taken to be an admission (CPR16.5(5))

Money Claims

Where the claim includes a money claim, you shall be taken to require that any allegation relating to the amount of money claimed be proved unless you expressly admit the allegation.

Disputing the statement of value in the claim

If you dispute the claimant’s statement of value under rule 16.3 you must:

(a) state why you disputes it; and
(b) if you are able, give your own statement of the value of the claim.

This is important as the value of the claim has a major bearing on whether a claim will be allocated to the small claims court or not.

Address for service

If you did not filed an acknowledgment of service under Part 10 i.e. you immediately submit a defence within 14 days, you must give an address for service.

Defence of set-off

Where you:
(a) contend you are entitled to money from the claimant; and
(b) rely on this as a defence to the whole or part of the claim,
the contention may be included in the defence and set off against the claim, whether or not it is also a Part 20 claim (see below for an explanation of Part 20 Claims).

5. Part 20 Claims (also known as Counterclaims)

At the same time as assessing whether to defend the claim you should also consider whether you have a claim against the Claimant. This known as a Counterclaim and is governed by CPR20.

Once again you should research the legal position, and if necessary seek professional advice, to determine whether you have a counterclaim against the Claimant.

If you need help getting legal advice please click here to provide further details and documents and we will help you find some legal advice for a fixed fee.

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