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Thread: What to expect at a small claims court hearing?

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    Amethyst's Avatar

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    Default What to expect at a small claims court hearing?

    Small Claims are heard at the County Court or Hearing Centre allocated to you - usually, if you are the defendant, the one closest to your home address.

    County Courts vary in size and set up but the majority of small claims hearings take place in small rooms with desks and chairs and the judge sitting at the front of the room.

    When you arrive at the court you usually have to go through security. Basically walk through a scanner to check for weapons and empty your pockets. Allow for having your bags searched so don't take too much crap in with you.

    You should report to the main desk and inform them you are there and they will tell you which court you will be in. You can also ask them if the other side have arrived yet - so you can either avoid them or go and introduce yourself and have a without prejudice chat before the hearing. Sometimes settlements are reached at this stage.

    District Judges try to accommodate litigants in person (ie those not represented by a solicitor/barrister) and try and make them feel comfortable. However there are strict manners to be observed in the court room, and you should avoid arguing with the Judge, speaking out of turn or interrupting the judge or other speakers. Be polite, respectful and restrained.

    There will be a court clerk in the room who will indicate to you when to stand and sit - you stand when the Judge enters or leaves the room.

    The Judge should be addressed as Sir or Ma'am.

    The Judge will usually not be wigged and gowned which makes them less intimidating however they are the boss in the room and what they say goes.

    The Judge will usually have read the papers before the hearing and will most likely as both parties to give a quick summary of their position in the case. Then ask questions about various points.

    Usually in small claims, particularly for debt claims, there is only the Judge, the Clerk, the claimant's representative and the defendant in the room.
    Take a pen and paper, and all your documents, a copy of your defence and the claim, and anything at all you think is relevant. You don't always need a 'bundle' in small claims hearings but you should take three copies of anything you feel the Judge or other side might want to see or keep copies of. If your defence is based heavily on dates of letters being sent etc ensure you have the envelopes/recorded delivery slips etc with you. Have it laid out in a folder so you can find things easily if needed.

    It often helps to write a witness statement before the hearing so you can easily refer to it when answering any questions. You may have written one and submitted it to the court in advance of the hearing - if so remember to take a copy with you.

    Usually a small claims hearing ends up with a result / judgment being given at the end of the hearing. Sometimes the judge may give further orders at the end of the hearing, eg. to produce documents etc. You should note down these orders as it may take a few days for the court to send you a copy of the order, if they do at all.


    These are just some quick notes off the top of my head, so if there is anything you would like to add please do, or if you want to recount your experiences of a small claims hearing please do. It's just aimed at giving people an idea of what to expect and not be so terrified of court they don't defend an illegitimate claim against them,
    “We may not win by protesting, but if we don’t protest we will lose. If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.” Hetty Bower

    Any advice I provide is given without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

    Find Solicitors offering fixed fees on our sister site - JustBeagle.com

  2. #2
    wales01man's Avatar

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    Default Re: What to expect at a small claims court hearing?

    We went to a hearing years ago us against Courts furnishers they claimed against us .
    the judge was brilliant it was like a chat in a pub we won he put down the others solicitor
    Brilliant not scary at all

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    AjayM's Avatar

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    Default Re: What to expect at a small claims court hearing?

    If you don't attend a hearing, how do you find out what the result was? And how long does that take?

  4. #4
    Amethyst's Avatar

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    Default Re: What to expect at a small claims court hearing?

    They will usually send you a copy of the order or judgment within a couple weeks of the hearing however you can always telephone the court and ask them.

    However we would never recommend not turning up to a hearing as it may have an adverse costs risk (ie. the other side could ask for costs against you and you won't be there to argue against it - also the Judge will only hear the other sides case and have just your paperwork to rely on, plus Judges don't tend to like the party that doesn't show up so its more likely you would lose)

    If you can't attend a hearing (or don't wish to for whatever reason) you need to contact the court and the other side at least seven days ain advance and ask it to be adjourned or cancelled, or if you prefer to go ahead without you. The Judge has to decide whether to allow your request and their may still be costs to pay.

    You could also request the case is heard via telephone. Sometimes the court will allow one or both parties to attend by telephone (which basically means you are a little white box in the corner of the room and its a bit weird, I hate telephone hearings, you can't see the whites of their eyes )

    If you are going to be away for any period after submitting your directions questionnaire you should write it in the area provided on the form so a court date isn't set when you are not available.

    This is the relevant CPR...

    Non-attendance of parties at a final hearing

    27.9

    (1) If a party who does not attend a final hearing–

    (a) has given written notice to the court and the other party at least 7 days before the hearing date that he will not attend;

    (b) has served on the other party at least 7 days before the hearing date any other documents which he has filed with the court; and

    (c) has, in his written notice, requested the court to decide the claim in his absence and has confirmed his compliance with paragraphs (a) and (b) above,

    the court will take into account that party’s statement of case and any other documents he has filed and served when it decides the claim.

    (2) If a claimant does not –

    (a) attend the hearing; and

    (b) give the notice referred to in paragraph (1),

    the court may strike out(GL) the claim.

    (3) If –

    (a) a defendant does not –

    (i) attend the hearing; or

    (ii) give the notice referred to in paragraph (1); and

    (b) the claimant either –

    (i) does attend the hearing; or

    (ii) gives the notice referred to in paragraph (1),

    the court may decide the claim on the basis of the evidence of the claimant alone.

    (4) If neither party attends or gives the notice referred to in paragraph (1), the court may strike out the claim and any defence and counterclaim.
    “We may not win by protesting, but if we don’t protest we will lose. If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.” Hetty Bower

    Any advice I provide is given without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

    Find Solicitors offering fixed fees on our sister site - JustBeagle.com

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