Akhtar v Boland  EWCA Civ 872
The recent CA case of Akhtar v Boland  EWCA Civ 872 clarifies what is meant by ‘the financial value...of the claim’ under CPR 26.8(1) and ‘any amount not in dispute’ under CPR 26.8.(2)(a) for allocation purposes.
Following a road traffic accident C issued a claim form dated 17 May 2012 for “damages in excess of £5,000 but less than £10,000 plus interest and costs.” C’s special damages claim included a claim for hire of a replacement vehicle and totalled £6,392.80, bringing it above the former small claims track (‘SCT’) limit of £5,000.
D served a Defence admitting liability but disputing quantum. The Defence “admitted” various items of special damages but a lower figure than pleaded in the claim form. D argued as a result of these admissions the amount in dispute was only £3,866.80, below the former SCT limit of £5,000.
Upon receipt of allocation questionnaires DJ Stockton allocated the claim to the SCT. C unsuccessfully applied for re-allocation to the Fast Track (‘FT’) and the court entered Judgment for the uncontested sums.
C appealed, arguing (1) a ‘partial admission’ of a distinct head of claim does not constitute a reduction in the amount of the dispute and (2) the ‘admitted’ sums in the Defence were not in fact admissions but a mere offer to pay certain sums. The appeal was unsuccessful before both a District and Circuit Judge and C was ordered to pay the costs of the appeal.
The case reached the CA on 25 June 2014. The CA ruled that where a defendant admits part but not the whole of damages claim C is entitled to Judgment on that admission and to pursue proceedings for the balance. In this case the Defence made it clear that part of the claim was uncontested and the Judge was entitled to enter Judgment on that sum. Once this Judgment had been entered the ‘amount in dispute’ fell below the small claims limit of £5,000 and the Judge was therefore correct to allocate the claim to the SCT.
The appeal was allowed however in relation to the costs of the appeal. Rule 44.9(2) (as it stood before 1 April 2013) provides that once a claim is allocated to a particular track those special rules apply to the period before as well as after allocation, except where a rule or PD provides otherwise. Given that the matter was allocated to the SCT the Judge had no power to order C to pay D’s costs of the appeal, and the costs order was set aside.
Vaughan Jacob / 8th Aug 2014
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