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reallymadwoman

Which costs are recoverable in small claims court?

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Basic background is a claim for around £600 against a large retailer. Mediation has failed, a hearing seems to be on the cards. Which, if any, of the following costs can be claimed from the defendant, assuming the claim succeeds of course.

 

witness' loss of earnings for attending the hearing

witness' travel costs

 

claimant's loss of earnings for attending the hearing

 

(There are two witnesses who will have to attend because the defendant will not accept witness statements from them instead and is persisting in disputing basic facts on principle)

 

accountant's fees for providing proof of loss of earnings

 

(claimant is self-employed, defendant is insisting on strict proof of the loss of £200ish, 16+ hours, even though the accountants fees will be more than the claim, fees were not included in the original claim)


RMW

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Hi

 

Please read http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part27#27.14.

 

To answer your questions:

- you can claim court fees

- you can claim your travel expenses

- you can claim your witness' travel expenses

- you can claim loss of earnings up to a max of 90 quid

 

You need the court's permission to use an expert report in small claims and there are special rules surrounding experts (e.g. they have to be impartial and in small claims would normally be appointed as joint expert acting for both parties). You can always chance it but technically you can only get the cost of this back if you have court permission. The court wouldn't normally grant permission to use an expert if the cost would exceed the cost of the claim.

 

There is no need for strict proof. In civil courts the judge will decide things on the balance of probabilities. If an accountant's report would cost more than the size of the claim its probably not worth getting the report.

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Thank you, extremely helpful.


RMW

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Its always worth looking at the summary judgement/strike out process, this can strike out or give judgement on a claim early on in the process (i.e before allocation), you can then claim FULL costs in the normal way (£18.75 per hour for LiP), BUT you must have a very strong case and should you lose or even if case goes to normal hearing you risk costs, it can though be a good tool.

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Many thanks for the replies so far. Might I ask for opinions/advice on a related issue?

 

The retailer involved has been less than co-operative, which has certainly added to the time taken to resolve this and may well have substantially increased the costs. Examples of their 'stalling' tactics include:-

- refusing to accept a claim from me and insisting I have to instruct a solicitor

- making wholly false allegations about my and my witness' conduct

- agreeing to mediation but making an offer which is substantially less than that previously offered, so absolutely no hope of me accepting it

- alleging that they have already made a substantial payment but refusing to provide proof of when/how (they haven't)

- not responding to any correspondence other than that from the court

 

The retailer is represented by a solicitor. I am sure at least some of these tactics are deliberately designed to intimidate me into agreeing a much reduced settlement or even withdrawing the claim altogether, and it's obvious that in agreeing to mediation they were actually just going through the motions. Even the mediator expressed some surprise at their 'immovable position' but of course I'm not allowed to use anything said during mediation in the hearing. Incidentally, the amount we're arguing over is less than £200.

 

The latest allegation has seriously upset me, not least since it at least implies dishonest if not fraudulent behaviour on my part, and I'm now seriously worried about what tactics this person might use during the hearing. I'm considering whether it's worth the potential hassle but I'm not the sort of person who generally backs down and it would probably upset me even more to let them get away with it.

 

Would it be worth even an implied threat of seeking costs for unreasonable behaviour? Does a threat like that carry any weight at all, i.e. is my local county court likely to be swayed by their behaviour - I have a feeling it would have to be much worse for them to be penalised.


RMW

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The supermarket would be entitled to refuse to engage in correspondence once they had given a proper response to your letter before action. Otherwise, I'd say that refusing to engage in correspondence is unreasonable. I would say that refusing to investigate the 'substantial payment' is unreasonable.

 

Making false allegations is unreasonable conduct if there is no evidence to support the allegation. In practice, the court is often not that interested in general mud-slinging between the parties.

 

I don't think the mediation thing is unreasonable. Sometimes the offer at mediation can be lower because the defendant has already incurred legal expenses.

 

These things are not enough on their own. But together they paint a damning picture. I think it is worth having a stab at claiming costs.

 

I suggest preparing a short costs schedule with an estimate of the time you have spent on this case and multiplying that by the LIP rate. You shouldn't underestimate your costs - they may well exceed the value of the claim itself if this is a case taken on principle. If you win the case, invite the judge to award costs on the basis of CPR 27.14(2)(g) and explain why. As it sounds like you would be relying on some of the letters exchanged before the case you should have those letters with you.


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Thanks.

The first response I got to anything (other than go away or get your solicitor to contact us) was after the claim was issued, they totally ignored initial letter, reminder and LBA.. Since then they've submitted a defence and that's it other than making unfounded allegations.


RMW

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Thanks.

The first response I got to anything (other than go away or get your solicitor to contact us) was after the claim was issued, they totally ignored initial letter, reminder and LBA.. Since then they've submitted a defence and that's it other than making unfounded allegations.

That sounds like unreasonable behaviour to me, and a flagrant breach of the pre-action protocol. Go for costs if you win - claiming costs in small claims is a bit of a lottery but it is certainly worth trying in a case like this.


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Why can you not claim for all the time you have put in. if you are taken to court and loose you can hit for costs for £500-1000 so why can't we if we win. i am just wondering what rule says you can not charge for your time,

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Why can you not claim for all the time you have put in. if you are taken to court and loose you can hit for costs for £500-1000 so why can't we if we win. i am just wondering what rule says you can not charge for your time,

 

The rules are pretty much the same for defendants and claimants.

 

Time costs are generally not awarded in the small claims track which deals with claims under £10k. Costs are awarded to the winning side in the other tracks.

 

You can sometimes get time costs if the other side behaves unreasonably, but this is rarely awarded.


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Why can you not claim for all the time you have put in. if you are taken to court and loose you can hit for costs for £500-1000 so why can't we if we win. i am just wondering what rule says you can not charge for your time,

 

This normally benefits litigants in person as they cant be held liable for sometimes huge costs that companies run up, it also means that a big company is less likely to chase someone for £200 as they would spend more than that on a solicitor and not be able to recover it.

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