A recent case has highlighted the need to ensure accuracy on all matters when issuing a claim at Court – particularly in relation to paying the correct fee.

Issuing a claim is the highly important first step in pursuing litigation through the Courts and, as has been seen recently in Bhatti & Anr v Ashgar & Anr [2016], it is possibly now more important than ever to ensure that all the paperwork filed at the Court is precise, to avoid potentially losing the right to bring the claim altogether. This includes ensuring the correct payment of the Court fee, especially under the recently restructured Court fee system.

The Bhatti case actually referred to an earlier method for calculating Court fees – where the relevant fee was specified by reference to the damages sought being within a certain range. The March 2015 Court fee amendments now mean that for claims of over £10,000, the fee is calculated by a percentage of the total amount claimed (i.e. there are no more thresholds for claims above £10,000). This means that there is now a higher margin for error in calculating the correct Court fee and it makes the lesson to be learnt from Bhatti an even more pertinent one.

In Bhatti, the Defendants’ asked the High Court to grant summary judgment on the grounds that the claims were not brought within the limitation period due to the Claimants’ underpaying the Court fee at the time of issue. Whilst the Defendants’ summary judgment application was not successful (for reasons outside the scope of this note), the Court was clear that the Claimants’ had underpaid the Court fees.

The Court held that the Claimants had failed to take account of unliquidated damages, which would have pushed the claim value up to the next threshold under the previous Court fee structure, meaning a higher fee should have been paid. The Court also held that an additional fee should have been paid to take account of the claims for ‘further or other relief’ (a non-money claim that attracts an additional fee).

The Court relied on previous cases which highlight the Court’s very strict approach to claims being issued without sufficient payment of the Court fee. The guidance from the case history is clear – issuing a claim without full payment of Court fees due is highly likely to result in the claim being considered not to have been brought at all. In cases where limitation is a potential issue, the time to bring the claim could even have run out by the time the error is recognised.

In a litigation landscape which is constantly and rapidly evolving, expert guidance at all stages of a claim (whether before or after a claim is issued) remains as integral as ever to ensuring disputes are resolved appropriately. Our expert advisors in Geldards’ Commercial Dispute Resolution Department are able to assist at all stages in relation to any claims or potential claims you may consider that you have.

For more information on this subject, please contact David Moore.

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