Ruth Mitchell

Small Claims set to get bigger?

With Watson Burton LLP Law Firm

The small claims procedure was set up to allow people and businesses to pursue claims that only had a limited financial value, in an informal environment, at low cost and at reasonable speed, without incurring disproportionate legal fees. The current financial limit for a small claim is £5,000, with a £1,000 limit for claims which involve personal injury or housing disrepair. These limits are currently under review by the Government, having published its own response to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee’s Report on small claims last month.

At the same time a European small claims procedure is under discussion. Pursuing a low-value claim against someone in another EU country can be an even more complex and costly process. To address these problems the European Commission proposed a draft regulation for a European small claims procedure in March 2005. The financial limit for a European small claim would be 2,000 Euros (approx £1,380). The procedure would be a largely written procedure, intended to be simple enough for individuals to raise and contest claims without representation and within a six-month deadline from lodging to final judgment. Current UK thinking is that the European procedure should not be available, as an alternative to our own small claims procedure, to settle domestic disputes. With the European dimension, access to justice and funding considerations all currently under debate, watch out for forthcoming changes to the small claims regime.

If you have any questions on this issue, please contact Gareth Arber at Watson Burton LLP (email: gareth.arber@watsonburton.com)

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