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Legal Glossary

Legal Glossary

Acknowledgement of Service

Tick box form a defendant must file at court, within 14 days of receiving a claim, to indicate whether they dispute all, part or none of the claim. If they fail to file it on time default judgment can be obtained.

Alternative Dispute Resolution - ADR

Methods of resolving a dispute other than through litigation. These include negotiation, mediation or arbitration. Courts now actively encourage parties to consider this and can punish a litigant who unreasonably refuses ADR. Click here for more information.

Allocation Questionnaire

Administrative form filed by all parties in litigation after a defence has been filed. The court requires the form for allocation. Claimant must pay a Court fee on filing (unless the claim falls under the exempt threshold). If a party fails to file the form, their case may be subject to a strike out.

Allocation

Upon receipt of the Allocation Questionnaire the court will allocate a matter to one of 3 tracks; Small Claims Track, Fast Track or Multi Track or, when appropriate, to specialised Courts. The court will also order directions as to how the case is to be prepared for Trial.

Allocation hearing

If the court requires further information from the parties before allocation can take place, then it may order a hearing that must be attended by the parties or their legal advisors.

Appeal

This is an application made to challenge or review a court's decision.

Application

A formal request made to the Court seeking an order at anytime prior to a trial. A court fee is payable when making the application.

Case Management Conference - CMC

Hearings ordered by the court in large or complex cases that allow the judge to review the progress of litigation and make any orders required to prepare the matter for Trial.

Case Law (or Common Law)

Law made by the courts to fill in gaps in law made by Parliament. Precedent is set by the Appeal Courts (eg House of Lords and Court of Appeal) and if similar circumstances prevail, then the lower courts must follow this precedent.

Claimant

An individual/company/firm that brings proceedings.

Claim Form

Form completed by a Claimant to commence legal proceedings. A fee, determined by the size of the claim, is payable to the court to issue it.

Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (CPR)

Core set of rules, which must be followed in all litigation.

Consent Order/Tomlin Order

Agreed terms between the parties either to conclude proceedings or in respect of directions to prepare the matter for Trial. Must be approved by the court.

Costs

Fees incurred in pursuing a legal action, including solicitor's charges, court fees and other disbursements.

Costs Assessment proceedings

When proceedings are concluded, provision is usually made for the losing party to pay for the costs of the winning party. If the parties cannot agree the amount of costs to be paid, then separate proceedings take place for the court to decide the amount.

Counterclaim

A claim brought by a defendant against the claimant in the same proceedings.

Default Judgment

Judgment ordered by the court when a defendant fails to file an Acknowledgment of Service and/or a defence to the claim.

Defendant

The party being sued in legal proceedings.

Defence

The defendant's response to a claim. The rules require a defence to provide full particulars of any issue in dispute.

Defence to Counterclaim/Part 20 Claim

The party subject to the Counterclaim/Part 20 Claim (usually the Claimant) has to file at Court and serve on the other side why they are disputing the Counterclaim/Part 20 claim.

Directions

This is the timetable set by the Court, detailing the steps the parties are required to take to prepare for Trial. Directions include provision for disclosure, exchange of witness statements and, if appropriate, expert evidence. If a party defaults on the timetable, they are likely to face sanctions, or may be subject to a strike out.

Disbursements

Any fees payable in litigation other than solicitor's fees; eg fees paid to the court, barristers, experts, agents, search fees etc.

Disclosure

Litigants are required to produce for inspection all documents relevant to the case which they have, have had, or have copies of at any time. This includes letters, emails, faxes, recorded conversations, and any other documentation. This is done so each party can evaluate the strength of their case, and no one is surprised by any documents at Trial. Click here for more information.

Enforcement

If a judgment is obtained, but the debtor fails to make payment, enforcement action can be taken. Click here for more information.

Expert's Report

Experts may be appointed to assist the Court in cases involving technical disputes. Generally in lower value and/or straightforward cases the Court will order the parties to jointly instruct the same expert. In high value or complex cases the Court may permit each party to instruct its own expert.

Fast Track

Claims between £5,000 and £25,000 will normally be allocated to this track. Fast track cases must be listed for trial within 30 weeks of allocation and the trial can last no longer than 1 day.

Filing of documents

The act of sending legal documents to the court.

Fixed Costs

The capping of recoverable litigation costs in certain specific circumstances; eg if a defendant settles a claim within 28 days of issue, then the claimant will only recover the court issue fee plus a nominal sum for solicitor's costs.

Injunction

An order of the court for something other than money; eg the return of goods.

Insolvency

An inability to pay debts when they fall due.

Judgment

This is the final order in legal proceedings and may be made by consent or after a trial/ summary judgment application. It determines how much is to be paid by one party to another.

Jurisdiction

The territory and extent of the Courts authority.

Litigant in Person

An individual/company conducting proceedings without legal representation.

Mediation

See ADR or click here for more information.

Multi Track

This is the court track for claims over £25,000 and /or complex cases. It usually involves a greater degree of case management by the court.

Part 36 Offers and Payments

A formal offer to settle litigation. Click here for more information.

Part 20 Claim

A claim brought in existing proceedings by any party other than the claimant. Most commonly it is a counterclaim brought by a defendant against the claimant, but occasionally it may be a claim brought by the defendant against another party, possibly to seek a contribution or indemnity against the original claim.

Particulars of Claim

A concise statement of facts detailing the claim. This is usually served with the claim form.

Pre-Trial Checklist/Listing Questionnaire

Fast track and multi track cases only. Another administrative form which lets the court know whether the parties are ready for Trial and also allows the parties to confirm suitable dates for trial. The claimant must pay a trial fee to the Court on filing this form.

Proceedings

Any legal action that has been issued at court.

Reply to Defence

This is a document filed by the Claimant in response to any issues raised in the Defence. Filing is optional, but it is usually a good idea to set out the claimant's case at an early stage in proceedings.

Security for Costs

An application made by a defendant if there is evidence that a claimant would be unable to satisfy any costs order made at the conclusion of the case. If the application succeeds then an order will be made that the claimant can only continue with the case if it pays a sum into court to cover the defendant's costs.

Service of documents

The act of sending legal documents to opponents in litigation. Service is governed by strict rules as set out in the CPR.

Small Claims Track

This is the track for claims under £5,000. It is much more informal than the other tracks and allows parties to litigate without the need for solicitors.

Statement of Truth

Formal declaration to the court that the person signing has an honest belief that the contents of a document are true. A person who signs without an honest belief commits a contempt of court which may be punishable by fine or imprisonment. The CPR provides which documents require a statement of truth and these include particulars of claim, defences and witness statements.

Statutory Law

This is law set out in Acts of Parliament.

Summary Judgment

An application to dispose of proceedings early in a case without the need for a trial. Click here for more information.

Summary assessment

In hearings (including trials) that take less than one day, the court will assess costs there and then rather than provide for costs assessment proceedings.

The Bar Council

This is the Regulatory Body for Barristers.

The Law Society

This is the Regulatory Body for Solicitors.

Trial

The final hearing of your case. Evidence is given by all the witnesses (who must be in attendance) and the Judge delivers a judgment.

Trial Bundle

These are the papers that are going to be referred to throughout the trial. It is the claimant's responsibility to prepare it and provide copies.

Undertaking

This is a 'promise', usually made by a legal representative, to do something; eg if something is required at a trial a solicitor may give an undertaking that a document will be brought to court the following day. It is professional misconduct for a solicitor to breach an undertaking.

Winding Up Petition

An application by a creditor of a company to have a liquidator appointed to realise the assets of a company. Click here for more information.

Witness Statement

Formal document, signed with a statement of truth, setting out all of the evidence that a person wishes to rely on in support of a case.