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Alexbabwa

£9k+ County Court Claim from ex employer. Is my life ruined?

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Hello CAG community,

 

Today I received a Count Court Claim from my ex employer for just over £9,000 (including £410 court fee).

 

I have 12 days to decide if I am going to respond with acknowledgement, to apply for 28 days to build my case, or respond with a defence. The space they give you to write a defence is very insufficient. I imagine I could write more online.

 

I can not afford a lawyer and will most likely have to represent myself. The court has an NN postcode and is not close to where I live in the West Midlands.

 

The story:

I accepted a job from an e-commerce employer as a digital marketer with an SEO focus. The directors had an obvious problem with anger. Ultimately I left after one month as the work environment was very hostile (though I cannot prove that). When I quit I could tell they were surprised and further angered. They acted like they were firing me and that was just fine.

 

During my brief employment I made them aware that their web host had them on an insufficient plan and was hosted using a reseller account in the Netherlands. This infuriated them and they had me gather evidence in preparation for a law suit. They also told me on a daily basis to call them with the intention of harassing them in to migrating us to another web host for free. Eventually I told them I would not do this anymore.

 

After I left the directors had to deal with the web hosting company themselves and I learned from one of the sales girls calling for help, that the web hosts had told the directors their website would be cut off shortly. It appeared they panicked and tried to migrate the website themselves. They have no web development experience what so ever. I would not even call them IT literate. Consequently they disappeared from the Google search results and acted like all was forgotten while they asked for my help. I obliged and didn't feel the need to let them hang themselves.

 

Rather than migrate the website, they just pointed their web address to a test version of the site. Because it was a test version special code was put in there to hide it from Google (it is bad to have two identical copies of a website visible). I left a document advising the next digital marketer they hire what the situation is,

 

"Be wary of duplicate content. Ensure NoIndex tags are maintained on every page during development. Check testbcr.co.uk is not being indexed. If it is then assess impact and take"

 

'NoIndex' refers to those special tags I mentioned. Any qualified developer who is aware there are NoIndex tags present on a test site, would know to remove them if they ever planned to make the website live. The problem is the Directors who are sales/business people, tried moving the website themselves because they couldn't get a contractor to work with them. They clearly didn't read the document I left or didn't understand the NoIndex reference.

 

If you have made it this far then thank you, sincerely, for investing in my situation. I am exhausted just writing it.

 

So the allegations they are making are that I didn't inform the company or the web host that I had left NoIndex tags on the test website. My defence, it has nothing to do with the web host and I have evidence that I informed them of the NoIndex tags.

 

They also allege that I delayed fixing the problem (after I left their employment) by two days. Honestly I don't know how long it took me. I wasn't employed by them and so didn't feel obligated in any case.

 

I could never afford the claim and court's costs should I lose in court. My credit rating would be destroyed and me and the wife would have to give up on the idea of having our own house one day. If there is a worse scenario I am not aware of it. Prison?

 

I feel like this shouldn't even go to court considering how far in the wrong they are. But I am honestly scared we live in a country with a justice system that favours the rich and wealthy.

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Please post the claim form in PDF format


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Will do. I need a little time to blank out name references etc

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Hopefully that worked.

court claim.pdf

Edited by dx100uk
only need front page rest removed and file shrunk from 6mb...dx

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I don't know much about website developing, but what is strange is that they cannot really explain what the claim is about.

They say that you didn't tell them that you had "put a do not follow" in the build up to the website and they disappeared from google.

How did they lose £9k?

Is it an estimate for lost website traffic or lost sales?

Frankly as a layman I see someone who was employed to do a job and they didn't do it right.

Happens all the time.

If you were a contractor they could sue for damages, but you say that you we're an employee.

I think you should explain in your defence what happened in VERY SIMPLE TERMS.

Remember that a judge will probably not know anything about webhosting and developing, so you have to break it down to elementary level.

Write up your defence and post it here, if I understand it, then it means that it is clear (as said I have little I.T. knowledge)

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The NN postcode on the court papers is as it has been issued through the bulk centre at Northampton, and is completely normal (& nothing to worry about).

 

Your post notes you are aware you need to acknowledge service of the claim, and supply a defence, within their respective time limits.

 

Once you do this, expect the case to be allocated to a court near you (this would be usual [to the defendant's nearest court] when the claimant is a business and the defendant an individual)

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How to quantify a Google loss in search results for a specified period of time could be tricky.....

 

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part16#16.2

 

Regards

 

Andy


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Thank you both for your replies.

 

Firstly, I don't know if it is relevant or worth saying in court, but I did do my job right. It is best practice to have NoIndex tags on a test website so that it doesn't take away from your real site. They are the ones who didn't do their job right when they migrated their website in a rush.

 

'NoIndex' and 'do not follow' refer to the same thing. The claimant actually means NoIndex which is a different thing to do not follow.

 

Defence:

I advised my then employer that the website would break if we moved it and that we needed their previous web developers and designers to rewrite the plug-in, to be compatible with the new server. The website had not been moved when I left because it would have been irresponsible and premature to do so.

 

I have evidence in the form of an email and a Microsoft Word document that I did in fact, inform my then employer, that there are NoIndex tags on the website. Do not follow is something different and has no bearing on Google rankings. I did not inform the web host because they are web hosts. Typically they do not act as your web developer or marketer and I left clear instructions my former employer should have a professional migrate the website.

 

I don't actually have enough space to write that on the claim form. Hopefully that was clear. Would this amount to my whole defence? or would I have an opportunity to speak for myself in court.

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Frankly as a layman I see someone who was employed to do a job and they didn't do it right.

 

As a fellow web developer I see someone who *did* do their job right. I guess that highlights the need to explain it to the judge in simple terms.

 

If you were a contractor they could sue for damages, but you say that you we're an employee.

 

Perhaps alexbabwa could clarify his employment status.

 

I advised my then employer that the website would break if we moved it and that we needed their previous web developers and designers to rewrite the plug-in, to be compatible with the new server. The website had not been moved when I left because it would have been irresponsible and premature to do so.

 

I have evidence in the form of an email and a Microsoft Word document that I did in fact, inform my then employer, that there are NoIndex tags on the website. Do not follow is something different and has no bearing on Google rankings. I did not inform the web host because they are web hosts. Typically they do not act as your web developer or marketer and I left clear instructions my former employer should have a professional migrate the website.

 

Sounds good from a technical point of view. The legal people on here will probably say that you need to add something along the lines that you also do not accept the 8930 figure and ask that the claimant justifies it. If the claim gets through to the next stage you'll have ample room to provide explanations of what NoIndex and Do Not Follow mean (perhaps quote from somewhere like Wikipedia).

 

Incidentally, do you have any proof that the claimant received the email/Word doc? Just wondering if they might try to wriggle out of it by saying they hadn't received it.

 

Also worth pointing out that, even if the judge did find in favour of the claimant (but from what you've said you're clearly in the right), it doesn't follow that he would award the full 8930 - he might decide that figure is nonsense (especially if the claimant can't produce evidence to back up this figure). So it's worth attacking that at a later stage too: how many days was the site out of Google, do you have any figures (from your time working with them) on how much traffic they were getting from Google, how much in sales they were making from Google traffic etc.

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You have 33 days in total if defending the claim in full.....14 days to acknowledge service (date on the claim form being day 1) and then a further 14 days to submit your defence...33 days in total.

 

You can do this on line once you have registered to use the MCOL service...details are contained within the claim response pack....your pass word is already on the claim form so you just have to get your username.

 

Your initial defence should only respond to the claimants pleadings at this stage so there is ample room to submit a defence on line.....once the claimant considers this and wishes to proceed then you will have further opportunity to expand on your defence within your witness statement later on...so do not think that you have to cram everything into your initial defence..

 

The above defence is therefore not really suitable in pleading a compliant response...simply admit or deny..anything you do not respond to it taken as an admittance.

 

Plenty of time to work on your defence.

 

Regards

 

Andy


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Thank you both for your replies.

 

Firstly, I don't know if it is relevant or worth saying in court, but I did do my job right. It is best practice to have NoIndex tags on a test website so that it doesn't take away from your real site. They are the ones who didn't do their job right when they migrated their website in a rush.

 

'NoIndex' and 'do not follow' refer to the same thing. The claimant actually means NoIndex which is a different thing to do not follow.

 

Defence:

I advised my then employer that the website would break if we moved it and that we needed their previous web developers and designers to rewrite the plug-in, to be compatible with the new server. The website had not been moved when I left because it would have been irresponsible and premature to do so.

 

I have evidence in the form of an email and a Microsoft Word document that I did in fact, inform my then employer, that there are NoIndex tags on the website. Do not follow is something different and has no bearing on Google rankings. I did not inform the web host because they are web hosts. Typically they do not act as your web developer or marketer and I left clear instructions my former employer should have a professional migrate the website.

 

I don't actually have enough space to write that on the claim form. Hopefully that was clear. Would this amount to my whole defence? or would I have an opportunity to speak for myself in court.

 

I can help by highlighting things that i (and most likely a judge) do not understand.

1. Website would break

2. Re-write the plug in

3. Website had not been moved (can you move an inanimate object? From where to where?)

4. No index tags

5. Do not follow

 

The key point of your defence is that you were working on a website using a test/temporary website (if I understand correctly)

Because when you left the job, this website was not ready to go live, you sent them an email and stated this (correct?)

They then carelessly proceeded to try and make the website you were designing live, but because of some particular characteristics of test websites (correctly integrated by you in the design), their website didn't show on google search.

Not your fault so you defend in full.

 

Is this an accurate account of what happened?

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Webmaster's point about your employment status is extremely important. Can you confirm – as he has asked – that you were employed and not self-employed?

 

Were you the only web developer/IT person there or were there others?

 

I would certainly send off an acknowledgement of the claim straightaway. Whatever you decide to do later, it won't place you at any disadvantage to put a note in acknowledgement saying that you will defend. You can always change your mind later on – but at the moment there seems no reason why you should.

 

Another thing you should realise is that if there is a hearing then the case will be transferred to your local court and also because the claim comes in at less than £10,000, it is highly likely to be allocated to the small claims track and this means that even if you lose, you won't have to pay the winners costs. Of course, if you win – you won't get your costs paid either.


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I did not expect so many responses and so quickly. Again thank you.

 

Webmaster

Highlighting how I did the right thing requires knowledge of web development and so it is a struggle to simplify it for a judge, but I shall keep trying.

 

I was indeed an employee and can prove it with my wage slip. I will likely have an email someone with an offer of employment and/or contract.

 

Great points! I will make a note of them for my witness statement later. They barely had any online sales, that is why they employed me. Is the duty on them to prove loss of revenue?

 

They responded to my email to request further clarification on a few things. That would strongly imply that they read the document otherwise how else would they know to ask for more information. They also replied with my message in the email chain.

 

Andy

Thank you. I will deny in the first instance. Unfortunately they haven't made it very clear what they are alleging. I didn't inform the new web host because it is nothing to do with them, but I don't deny it. And so by not denying it I may appear guilty to a judge that doesn't understand the role of a web host.

 

King

It is close but not quite accurate. I have made a note of your list and will work tonight to create a suitable explanation for the non developers.

 

BankFodder

I was indeed employed. I was the only web developer and IT person there. They contracted out the role previously. There was a sales girl with a degree in computer science, but she couldn't work out how to set up her own email.

 

 

The below might be important, but it is not something the claimant has taken issue with in the particulars

While I was an employee at the time the NoIndex tags were put on the test website, the former employer contacted/harassed me after I left asking/expecting help. I wasn't feeling vindictive so I agreed to take a look. I saw they left the tags on and told them I have removed them. They came back to me some time later accusing me of delaying the fix by two days to hurt their business. Honestly I don't know if it did take me two days or if Google needed time to re-crawl their website etc. All I know is I was doing them a favour and felt no obligation to actually help them. Had I wanted to hurt their business I simply needed to take no action.

 

My concern is that while they solicited my help by email and phone, I was not an employee or contractor when I fixed the problem they created. Perhaps this would open me up to a world of hurt in court?

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I

They barely had any online sales, that is why they employed me. Is the duty on them to prove loss of revenue?

I think that being able to say "In the time I worked there they were receiving 100 clicks per day (obviously discount spiders from this figure) and averaged around 50 pounds of web-based sales each week" would certainly be a big help. They could argue that there are less tangible losses associated with their disappearance from Google - brand name awareness etc, but the onus will be on them to substantiate the 8930 pounds. Further down the line you'll get a copy of all the docs they intend to use in court (if it goes that far), and you'll be able to see where they are getting this figure from

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I think that being able to say "In the time I worked there they were receiving 100 clicks per day (obviously discount spiders from this figure) and averaged around 50 pounds of web-based sales each week" would certainly be a big help. They could argue that there are less tangible losses associated with their disappearance from Google - brand name awareness etc, but the onus will be on them to substantiate the 8930 pounds. Further down the line you'll get a copy of all the docs they intend to use in court (if it goes that far), and you'll be able to see where they are getting this figure from

 

As per my post #7 Webby.

 

All claimants must be able to disclose/ prove and quantify loss...very difficult if there is no actual/history to start with....or even potential loss....the fact that they have actually issued a part 7 claim and stated a value as opposed to a part 8 claim is a reflection that no Solicitor is advising or acting on the claim form.


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Outstanding insight.

They have a lawyer they contact almost daily (they are always sending threatening letters to someone). There must be a reason they have not used him this time.

Good food for thought.

 

I have been on the phone to Hiscox insurance.

I have professional indemnity insurance from 12th January.

Unfortunately the time I was employed by them was in December a month earlier, so I imagine I will not be covered.

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Hello everyone,

 

In the last couple of days I have done some research, approached people willing to give witness statements and worked on my defence. It turns out no less than 3 contractors broke off business relationships with the employer in the space of a month, due to their abusive behaviour.

 

If I am correct, in cases of negligence (or alleged negligence in this circumstance) an employer is not able to sue an employee due to rules set out in the Employment Act.

 

Does anybody know if this is strictly true? Since this should be the whole of my defence if it is and I could request the case gets struck out.

 

I have been Googling to find the specific clause in the Employment Act that prevents most employers from suing their employees, but have come up empty.

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Im not sure which tangent you are steering to above......but this claim has nothing to do with employment rights or who can sue who...you defend against the claimants particulars and make them prove their loss...post#10.

 

Andy


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Hello Andy,

 

What I am suggesting is,

the small claims track is for claiming money owed, and that the employer has selected the wrong course.

 

 

If employees are protected under the Employment Act from being sued by their employers for mere negligence or other things, how can that be overruled by a county court claim that a judge has yet to see. If I am way off beat please tell me and I will abandon this approach.

 

 

it seems that if employees are protected, this nonsense claim should not stand.

I need to figure out if it is worth making part of my defence, that I was an employee at the time and afforded the protections of the Employment Act irrespective of who is at fault.

 

Alex

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You only had a brief employment...so forget employer/employee...this is a money claim


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Here is the first draft of my defence to submit with the defence form. I would appreciate your opinions.

 

 

I deny and refute all allegations in the particulars of this claim. I deny that I did not inform my previous employer to the existence of No Follow tags.

 

I ask that this claim be struck out for the following reasons

 

- I was in direct control of the claimant as an employee

- The claimant has given no indication or evidence as to how they have come to a £8,930 loss

- The claimant alleges I did not inform them of NoIndex tags and is aware I have evidence to the contrary

- This claim is ill thought out and vexatious

 

Furthermore, their staff member 'Kiren' informed me that the reason they ignored my advice and attempted to move the website on their own, was because their business relationship had broken down with their previous web host and developers, and were given a 7 day deadline to leave before they were cut off.

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Well the your first line is the correct approach...the rest is rambling and not required for an initial defence...and you cant ask a claim to be struck out in a defence.

 

What date is this due to submit Alex?


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Hi Alexbabwa,

 

Did your previous employers also follow correct pre-court action procedure, sending you a Pre-court Letter Before Action - or did the court notice just drop on you?

 

Thanks

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Sorry for the delayed response both, I appreciate you taking an interest.

 

The deadline to respond was 26th march.

 

My ex-employer did not give me any warning or notice that they were going to file a claim. The last email I had from them accused me of delaying help by two days to extend the time they were de-indexed by Google, thus costing them money and the bonuses of the sales team. As I hadn't been employed by them for a month I thought they should have been grateful I helped them at all, but I don't know how a judge would see it.

 

I have submitted by defence, it was long and I used two analogies. I got so worked up emotionally I just wanted it to be over one way or another. On Friday I got a response from the court that it would go to the small claims track. I have to send the directions questionnaire back. There are two questions of concern.

 

1) Expert witness - I can not afford one, and I am concerned my ex-employer will contact every 'expert' in the city until they find someone willing to say what they want them to. Nothing I can do about that I suppose.

 

2) Witnesses - The question is written in a way that implies the only valid witness is one who would show up in court. I have a witness statement emailed to me by the web hosts forced to break away from my ex-employer, but I doubt they could be at the hearing. My employer could also put any/all of their employees on the stand and have them say anything they want.

 

3) Intermediary - I have been advised it looks bad if I do not show that I am willing to try and settle this out of court. But I am not willing to pay anything for their mistake, made against my advise. Still, better to go along with it and just politely reject any offer for a reduced claim.

 

4) There were no other forms or instructions. I thought at this stage I had to send over my full defence and written statements etc.

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1) Expert witness - I can not afford one, and I am concerned my ex-employer will contact every 'expert' in the city until they find someone willing to say what they want them to. Nothing I can do about that I suppose.Dont need one

 

2) Witnesses - The question is written in a way that implies the only valid witness is one who would show up in court. I have a witness statement emailed to me by the web hosts forced to break away from my ex-employer, but I doubt they could be at the hearing. My employer could also put any/all of their employees on the stand and have them say anything they want. 1 witness ...yourself to the claim

3) Intermediary - I have been advised it looks bad if I do not show that I am willing to try and settle this out of court. But I am not willing to pay anything for their mistake, made against my advise. Still, better to go along with it and just politely reject any offer for a reduced claim.All parties are expected to participate in mediation (ADR) irrespective of any outcome

4) There were no other forms or instructions. I thought at this stage I had to send over my full defence and written statements etc. No thats the next stage when you receive the Notice of Allocation

 

Andy


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