County Court Judgments

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16 June, 2021

The Prime Minister's finances have been the subject of public focus surrounding the recent local Government elections. However, the most recent headlines have been focusing on a County Court Judgment in the Prime Minister's name in relation to a defamation case which was brought against him by a member of the public.

What is a County Court Judgment?

In short, a judgment is a final court decision that conclusively disposes of a claim or part of a claim. A judgment obtained in the County Court is known as a County Court Judgment.

A party may obtain a County Court Judgment against another party to a claim in one of the following ways:

By obtaining judgment in default against a party;

By applying to the court for Summary Judgment in a matter; or

At the final hearing or trial in a matter.

Judgment in Default

In the event that a Defendant fails to acknowledge or defend a claim, the Claimant can request judgment without a trial in order to bring the matter to an early conclusion.

Default Judgment is judgment by an administrative act rather than a decision on the merits of the case, and may only be obtained:

Where the Defendant has filed an Acknowledgment of Service but has failed to file a Defence within the time limit; and

Where the Defendant has made a counterclaim and the Claimant has failed to file a Defence within the time limit.

Therefore, if someone has made a claim against you, it is important that you obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity so that you don't miss the deadline's for filing an Acknowledgment of Service and a Defence and risk having a Default Judgment made against you.

Summary Judgment

Summary Judgment is a procedure by which the court is asked to decide a claim or part of a claim without the need for a full trial. In a Summary Judgment hearing, the Court is required to consider the merits of a case and provide a quick determination of cases, and therefore is different from Default Judgment.

Either party to a County Court claim may apply to the Court for summary judgment on the following grounds:

That the other party has no real prospects of successfully making or defending the claim; and

There is no other compelling reason why the case or issue should be disposed of at trial.

Summary Judgment is generally available to Claimants or Defendants, however, it may not be appropriate in cases which are particularly complex in nature or which involve allegations of fraud.

If a party to proceedings has applied for Summary Judgment against you, it is important that you obtain legal advice on how to respond to the other party's application and how to avoid having judgment entered against you.

Trial

Once a Claimant has made his claim and the Defendant has submitted a defence, the parties will have numerous Court directions to comply with before the claim ends up at trial. Once the claim goes to trial, the Court will consider the claim, the defence, as well as any witness evidence or expert evidence which is necessary for the Court to make a decision on liability or the level of compensation to be awarded.

If you are unsuccessful at trial, or in a situation where the other party has been awarded Default or Summary Judgment, the Court may order you to pay damages to the other party and to make a contribution towards their legal costs. If you fail to pay any sums awarded within a specified period of time, the other party may seek to enforce the order against you.

What can I do if I have a CCJ against me?

If you think that another party has incorrectly obtained Default Judgment against you, you may be able to apply to the Court to set that judgment aside.

The Court must set aside a Default Judgment where the Claimant has failed to meet the conditions for obtaining Default Judgment.

In any other case, the Defendant must apply to the Court to set the order aside on one of the following grounds:

That the Defendant have a real prospect of successfully defending the claim; or

There is some other reason why:

The judgment should be set aside or varied; or

The Defendant should be allowed to defend the claim.

Further, in order to set aside a Default Judgment, it is necessary that an application is made promptly upon the Defendant becoming aware of the judgment against them.

In the case of a Summary or Trial Judgment, an appeal may be required to set aside the County Court Judgment.

When a party has made a claim against you, it is imperative that you obtain legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity in order to prevent judgment being entered against you. Once judgment has been entered against you, it may be difficult to get the order set aside and this may ultimately end up affecting your credit rating or leading to enforcement action.

For more information contact Andrew Wilkinson in our Dispute Resolution department via email or phone on 01772 220168. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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