Tracks and directions
A directions order is made once the claim has been allocated to one of the three tracks. The order is sent to both parties and their solicitors if they are represented. The directions order will set a timetable that both parties must adhere to, such as:
It may also give directions for specific issues such as specific disclosure.
The small claims track is intended for low value (under £10,000) claims (for matters of contract) where cases are dealt with quickly. Courts do not allow more than one day for a small claims hearing and expert evidence is not normally allowed, except with special permission from the court. The parties are often not legally represented, although most large creditors such as banks or debt purchasers issuing money claims will be represented by solicitors.
Hearings are presided over by the District Judge, not a Circuit Judge and disputes are resolved more by way of arbitration than by way of trial. There are no formal rules of evidence and the District Judge may decide to hold a hearing in private if the parties agree.InfoCertain parts of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) do not apply to this track. Part 27 of the Civil Procedure Rules and its corresponding Practice Direction 27 deal with the small claims track.
Part 31 does not apply because a more limited form of disclosure applies as per Part 27.4(2) of the CPR. Requests for further information can only be made by the court (Part 27.4(3)). The rules on experts do not apply because expert evidence is not normally allowed. Part 36 offers do not apply because this would interfere with the no costs rule. See Settlement and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
In the small claims track, costs are normally covered by each side and not awarded against the losing party. The judge has no power to award costs to the successful party except in exceptional cases where the judge considers that the case is frivolous or vexatious or one which should not have been brought.
CPR 27.14 relates to costs:
This is supplemented by Practice Direction 27 as follows:
Part 27.4(2) refers to the standard directions on the small claims track, including the requirement for each party to disclose the documents they intend to rely on at the hearing, at least 14 days before the hearing date.
Most cases between £10,000 and £25,000 which can be dealt with at a trial lasting no longer than a day will be allocated to this track. More complex cases of this value may be allocated to the multi-track. Expert evidence is allowed but limited to no more than two fields of expertise and just one expert per field. Unlike the small claims track, costs can be awarded against the losing party.
The trial window will usually be around 6 months away from the directions hearing. Once the court receives the questionnaires, it will set a date for the trial within the trial window, and also inform the parties where it will take place.
Practice Direction 27.3 sets out a typical timetable for the preparation of the case.
The dates for carrying out the timetable set by the court will be given as time and calendar dates, for example, by 4pm on 1 June. The sides may agree in writing to extend the times for exchanging the documents needed but they should tell the court the timetable that they have agreed. Any extension must not affect the date for returning the pre-trial checklists or the date of the trial. See disclosure for further information.
As part of the directions, you will be required to fill in a pre-trial checklist sent by the court to both sides with a date by which you must return it. The checklist will assist the judge in deciding whether further directions are required before the trial. See court process and case management for more information.
Once the checklists are received, the court will decide whether further directions are needed before the trial, confirm how long will be needed for the trial and set a timetable for the trial itself, as well as giving directions regarding filing a trial bundle, which is a set of documents and evidence. The directions may specify the way the bundle should be presented.
The court will send you notice of the trial date no later than 21 days before the trial is due to start. See trial for more information about the trial itself.ReferenceCosts are dealt with separately, see costs for more information.
Below is an example of how directions should be set out, taking into account the timetables from paragraph 3.12 to set the dates accordingly.
The multi-track is intended for the most complex cases, usually with a value over £25,000. The multi-track allows for maximum flexibility with regards to case management and procedure, directions and experts. Multi-track trials can last several days.