How Simple is Simple Procedure?
As of 28 November 2016 claims for payment of a sum below £5,000 (excluding personal injury) must be raised under the new Simple Procedure Rules. This has replaced Summary Cause and Small Claims in the Sheriff Court. Personal Injury claims are not yet covered by the SP Rules. Personal Injury Claims below £5,000 are expected to have a new set of Court Rules set out in the near future.
The Simple Procedure Rules have been designed with the party litigant (lay person) in mind, using accessible language and incorporating user-friendly guidance into the rules. They are aimed at making the court process and rules governing low value claims more accessible, flexible and efficient.
The Rules are framed in a question and answer format and put in plain English with the aim of enabling all litigants, including unrepresented parties, to understand what is required of them and what they can expect to happen at each stage of the process. Some of the Scottish terminology has also been replaced such as ‘pursuer’ with ‘claimant’; ‘defender’ with ‘respondent’; and ‘sist’ with ‘pause’. However, for other Scottish court actions the terms “pursuer”, “defender” and “sist” remain correct.
The action is raised by the Claimant completing a Claim Form. This form is sent to the court to be warranted. Once warranted the court will issue a timetable detailing the last date for effecting service against the Respondent and the last date for lodging a Response Form.
The intention is to introduce an online case management system which will enable parties to start actions, submit case documents, pay fees and track the progress of cases online. This is not yet available.
Once the Respondent has lodged a Response Form the Court will issue a Written Order. The Court has wide-ranging powers to determine procedure or disposal of the action. Within the Written Order the Court can:
- refer parties to Alternative Dispute Resolution;
- arrange a case management discussion;
- fix a hearing;
- indicate that the sheriff is considering making a decision in the case without a hearing; or
- dismiss or decide the case.
In addition to the above, the Court may also order the parties to lodge various documents or clarify any issues by a certain date. This is with a view to making parties disclose their position and all evidence at the outset to narrow the dispute. This is in contrast to the Small Claims proceedings where a significant degree of control remained with the parties as to how to progress matters.
If a Response Form is not lodged the Claimant must send an Application for a Decision to the Sheriff within 14 days. Therefore it is important that Solicitors are instructed as soon as possible to ensure the Claimant’s solicitors are not in a position to apply for decree (judgement) in response to the lack of Response Form.
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