In a recent road traffic accident case, the claimant sought damages of £6,392.80 while the defendant filed for vehicle hire, recovery and storage charges totalling £2,496. The defendant also pleaded that the specific claim now fell under £5,000 (the limit for the small claims track at that time) and should be allocated as a small claim, which was granted by the district judge.
The claimant then made an application to also have his damages claim re-allocated to the fast track but was refused by the judge who, subsequently, awarded the £2,496 damages against the defendant, as pleaded.
In response, the claimant appealed, arguing that the defence had not contained “admissions but only offers”, and that all sums would be “contested” at trial. However, it was shown that while the defence had stated that hire recovery and storage charges were admitted at £2,496, the defence had subsequently called upon the claimant to provide “proof” of the claim amount sought.
The claimant’s argument was rejected by the Court of Appeal, explaining that the district judge had interpreted the defence as including an “unqualified admission” that the claimant was entitled to the amount of £2,496. Thus, the admission was binding and the court had no jurisdiction to investigate a fact that had been admitted unless permission of the court was ought to withdraw the admission.
The principle applied even more strongly to a judgment. Neither party may offer as evidence or make submissions that would lead to decisions or findings inconsistent with the judgment, unless a successful application was made to set the judgment aside. Where there was judgment for part of a claim, the claimant was entitled to pursue the balance.
In considering an allocation of the balance after the claimant had obtained judgment, the court will look into “relevant matters to track allocation”, which include the financial value (if any) of the claim and the likely complexity of the facts, law or evidence. The court will then assess the financial value of a claim and disregard any amount not in dispute.
Once the defendant had accepted that the claimant was entitled to judgment in the sum of £2,496, the court determined that the only sum in dispute was the balance of the claim, which was less than £5,000.