The story so far.......
Rory, an electrician, has re-wired Ceri’s house. Ceri says the installation hasn’t been done properly and is unsafe and there is lots of re-plastering still to be done. Ceri has followed the pre-action protocol (the official court procedure) and has tried to resolve the dispute, but without success. Ceri has decided to take Rory to court. Ceri is the claimant (the person who is starting the court proceedings) and is a litigant in person (someone who represents themselves without the help of a solicitor or barrister). Rory is the defendant (the person who has court proceedings brought against them). Rory does not accept Ceri’s claim.
This is how the court proceedings go in this case, step by step. This is an example of a typical case, but other cases could proceed in a different way. It is important to consider at every step whether it is possible to settle the claim and whether it would be appropriate to discuss settlement with the other party. You can settle a claim at any point up to the trial. See How to settle a claim.
|1.Ceri fills in a claim form including the section called the Particulars of Claim.|
Claim form - the form that starts a case and where the Claimant explains what they are asking for.
|2. Ceri photocopies the completed claim form and Particulars of Claim. Ceri needs one for the court, one for Rory and one to keep.|
|3. Ceri sends the original claim form plus two copies to the court together with the correct fee. (If eligible, she can ask for help to pay the court fee by completing Form EX160 and including that with her claim instead.)|
|4. The court sends Rory a copy of Ceri’s claim form and a response pack by first class post. The response pack includes the forms Rory needs to reply to Ceri’s claim.|
Response pack - the pack of forms and information sent to a Defendant after a claim starts.
|5. The court sends Ceri a Notice of Issue. This confirms that Ceri’s case has started and includes the date of service.|
Notice of issue - this tells you that your claim has started, the date it began, the case number, date and method of service and the deadline by when the defendant has to respond.
|6. Rory has 14 days from the date of service to decide what to do next and to reply.|
|7. Rory does not agree with Ceri’s claim. Rory fills in the defence form in the response pack and returns it to the court. If he had needed more time he could have completed the acknowledgement of service form and returned that to the court within the initial 14 days. He would then have had a further 14 days to complete and send in the defence form.|
Acknowledgement of service form – the form the Defendant can complete to confirm they have received the claim documents and to give themselves a little more time to respond.
|8. The court sends Ceri and Rory a copy of the defence form, a notice of proposed allocation and a directions questionnaire.|
Notice of proposed allocation - this tells you which route (‘track’) the court thinks your case should take through the court system.
|9. Ceri and Rory discuss whether they can agree any of the answers to the directions questionnaire. They decide they can agree how long the trial will last.|
|10. Ceri and Rory both fill in a directions questionnaire and return it to the court by the date stated on the notice of proposed allocation. They also send a copy to each other.|
|11. A judge looks at the information in the directions questionnaires and decides how the case will progress from now on.|
In a complex case the judge may want to see the parties, in which case they will list the case for a case management hearing to discuss the contents of the directions questionnaires before giving directions.
|12. The court sends Ceri and Rory a notice of allocation. This allocates (or assigns) the case to the fast track. The notice (a type of court order) also tells Ceri and Rory what to do next. These instructions are called directions.|
Notice of allocation - this tells you which track your case has been allocated to, small claims, fast track or multi track.
|13. Ceri and Rory both fill in a form called a list of documents and send the other a copy. They do this by the date given in the judge’s instructions which will be about 4 weeks after allocation. This step is called disclosure.|
List of documents - the form you use to list the documents and any other evidence that is relevant to your case. See X for how to complete it.
|14. Ceri asks for copies of some of the documents listed on Rory’s list of documents, and Rory provides them.|
Once you have provided your list of documents to the other party they may ask for copies, or to inspect certain documents.
|15. Rory asks for copies of some of the documents listed on Ceri’s list of documents, and Ceri provides them.|
|16. Ceri and Rory exchange witness statements. They do this by the date given in the judge’s directions which will be about 10 weeks after allocation.|
Witness statement - a document in which someone explains what they saw, did or heard.
|17. Ceri and Rory exchange expert reports (if any). They do this by the date given in the judge’s directions which will be about 14 weeks after allocation.|
If expert evidence is appropriate, the judge is likely to want the parties to instruct an expert on a joint basis unless there are good reasons not to. A joint expert would report to both parties at the same time.
|18. Ceri and Rory’s experts (if any) speak to each other to work out where they agree with each other and to try and reduce the number of things they disagree about.|
|19. The court sends Ceri and Rory a pre-trial checklist. This happens about 20 weeks after allocation. The court also tells them the date by which the checklists must be returned.|
Pre-trial checklist - the form you use to tell the court how your case is progressing in the run up to the trial, and whether anything else needs to be done to get the case ready for trial.
|20. Ceri and Rory discuss whether they can agree what information should go in the pre-trial checklist.|
|21. Ceri and Rory both fill in a pre-trial checklist (also called a listing questionnaire) and return it to the court by the date stated on the front of the form.|
|22. The court sends further directions and tells Ceri to file a trial bundle 7 days before the trial.|
If there are a lot of outstanding issues the judge may want to see the parties, in which case they will list the case for a pre-trial review (hearing) before giving further directions.
|23. The court sends Ceri and Rory a notice of trial date and tells Ceri what hearing fee she must pay and the date by which she must pay it. (If eligible, she can ask for help to pay the court fee by completing Form EX160.) Ceri and Rory have about 3 weeks to get ready for the trial. The trial takes place about 30 weeks after allocation.|
Notice of trial date – this tells you when and where your trial will take place, how much the trial fee is, and the deadline for paying it.
|24. The trial takes place and the judge makes a decision after hearing the evidence. The judge also deals with the issue of costs.|
Evidence - information or materials relevant to proving the facts of your case. This may include information that doesn’t support your case – information that may end up helping the other side.
|25. The court sends both Ceri and Rory a copy of the court order containing the judgment.|
Judgment - the judge’s written decision.