The change in the court rules in April 2013, gave Judges the power to allocate a claim to the small claims track, even if the value of the claim exceeds £10,000. The general small claims limited changed from £5,000 to £10,000 in April 2013. Claims of a value in excess of £10,000, are usually tracked to the fast track, where the successful party can usually expect an order that the other party pays their reasonable legal costs.
Small claims track implications
It has yet to be revealed how many claims with a value in excess of £10,000 have been allocated to the small claims track instead of the fast track.
If a Judge decides to allocate a claim to the small claims track, it can have the following consequences:
- Neither party can expect to be able to recover its legal costs, even if successful at trial.
- This can mean that a Defendant who was fearing having to pay the sum claimed (in excess of £10,000) plus the Claimant’s legal costs, might instead be minded to push the matter to trial rather than settle the claim at an early stage.
- The court fees will be reduced. For example, a fast track trial fee is £655 whereas a small claims track trial fee can be £325.
- The use of expert evidence will be restricted. It is very unlikely an expert will be allowed to give oral evidence at the trial so only his written report will be available. The cost of the expert report will be limited to £1,500.
- There will be relaxed control by the court of the evidence it allows at trial. There will be no timetable as there usually is in the fast track.
- The trial itself may be over 2-3 hours, whereas a fast track trial is usually allocated a whole day.
The discretion Judges have in allocating matters to track creates uncertainty for parties, which is a bad thing in litigation. A Claimant who has a claim of say for example, £11,000, would be justified in instructing a solicitor to prepare the claim and issue the proceedings at court. He risks however, a Judge deciding the matter should be a small claim, meaning his legal costs are irrecoverable. We think it more likely the Judges will allocate matters in excess of £10,000 in value to the small claims track, when the parties are not represented by solicitors but watch this space.