This owner of a small garage was in business for over 25 years and specialised in MOT and repairs of classic vehicles. He enjoyed an excellent reputation and never had any complaints, let alone legal cases against him.
One day, to his great shock, he received a Money Claim for £15,000, alleging that he caused significant damage to a classic Mini that he fixed some 6 months prior. He was perplexed – after the repairs were done, the vehicle passed the MOT and was driven away by the client. No issues were raised, no complaints were made. He was petrified. He did not know what it all meant and what do to next.
Fortunately, he instructed one of our associates, in time to deal with the issue. Time is vital. If you receive a Money Claim against you or your business, you must act swiftly – if you fail to file an Acknowledgement of Service within 14 days of receiving the Claim, your opponent may request a Judgement in Default and you could end up with a County Court Judgement, which can be costly and difficult to set aside. When filing the Acknowledgement of Service, you can indicate that you need more time to prepare your Defence – you will then have 28 days to submit it.
After filing an Acknowledgement of Service, our associate filed the Defence. On the face of it – this appears to be a very common case of litigation. What makes this one interesting is how a missing piece of evidence influenced the outcome.
The opponent prepared the documents in support of their claim. In their list of documents, they failed to indicate that they had photographs of the alleged damage. They did not send these photographs to our client, or to Court – instead, they simply brought them to the hearing. This is a common mistake made by litigants in person – all evidence that you intend to rely on in your claim needs to be exchanged with the other side and included in your “Bundle” – the documents that you present to the court. If you fail to do so, the Judge may not permit you to use this evidence and you will not be able to rely on it.
This is exactly what happened. There were multiple quotes for work on the alleged damage, there was an invoice for fixing issues not included in the list of alleged damages, there were petrol bills for taking the Mini to other garages. And there were photographs – what looked to be dozens, in front of the Claimant, that they were unable to use.
There was no conclusive evidence to show that our client caused any damage. Based on the facts before him, the Judge decided that the damage, if any, was caused either by the Claimants themselves or by another garage, long after our Client’s involvement. Accordingly, the claim was dismissed in full.