The Petty Debts Court in Jersey is a small claims court. This means that the monetary value of the claims handled there is considered lower than those taken to the Royal Court. Here, we take a look at the steps involved and things to consider regarding Petty Debts Court in Jersey.
The Petty Debts Court now has jurisdiction to deal with all civil cases and matters with a monetary value of up to £30,000 — be that money owed or costs of damages. The Jersey Petty Debts Court also deals with family matters as well as tenancy claims surrounding leased property with annual rents of up to £45,000.
Before making a claim in Petty Debts Court, a plaintiff should write to the defendant setting out the basis of their claim and demand payment. If the exact amount of money owed isn’t clear, you should provide your best estimate as a figure. The letter should state that, if payment is not made within seven days, legal proceedings might be instituted to recover the monies owed. The Jersey Citizens’ Advice Bureau recommends waiting seven to 14 days for a response before issuing proceedings.
After this time, if no payment is received and there has been no discussion of intention to pay, the plaintiff can decide to take the case to Petty Debts Court in Jersey. To proceed, the plaintiff must issue a summons — a formal document with the key details of the claim. This must state the sum of money owed and provide a brief description of the reason for the debt, along with details of any interest or stamp duty and any costs or wages arrest sought. It must also state the date and time of the court appearance.
Two copies of the summons, together with a claim summary form, must be delivered to the Jersey Magistrate’s Court Greffier before 3 pm on a Friday. The Greffier is the court official helping the judge, and they then send a copy of the summons to the defendant.
They will add the action to the court list for the Wednesday nominated on the summons. In practice, this is usually the second Wednesday following the posting of the summons.
Once issued with a summons, a defendant may try to settle the case. If that happens before 3 pm on the Monday before the case is scheduled to appear in Petty Debts Court (with the exception of bank holidays), the case can be withdrawn. If a defendant can only pay by cheque — which would need time to clear — or if a defendant can only settle part of the debt, the plaintiff can agree to adjourn the case until it is completely settled. This provides an opportunity to redeem the debt with a more manageable and realistic option like a payment plan.
It is advisable to try to settle a case if possible because, if a judgment is taken against a person, it may well negatively affect their creditworthiness in the future.
If the case cannot be settled, the plaintiff must go to Petty Debts Court in Jersey to present their case, either with a lawyer or in person. If the defendant does not appear in court, it is more than likely that judgment will be taken against them. If the defendant does fail to appear in Petty Debts Court, you can request that judgement be made in their absence.
If a claim is contested by the defendant, the court will establish the nature of the case and also whether the defendant has an arguable and legitimate defence.
Once the Petty Debts Court has satisfied itself in that regard, it may well:
Mediation is a procedure whereby a trained mediator will facilitate discussion between the parties to achieve a settlement, which, once signed, is binding upon both parties.
The mediator must not act as a judge or as an arbitrator. Meeting with a mediator is less formal than appearing in Petty Debts Court and one of the benefits is that the parties can talk to the mediator in a way they wouldn’t be able to do in court. Mediation is more like having a conversation, whereas, if you are a witness in litigation proceedings, your role is to answer questions put to you by the opposition. With the latter option, you would not necessarily have the opportunity to get things off your chest in the same way as you would with mediation. It’s an opportunity to resolve the dispute in a private, more informal setting.
The costs of mediation are not recoverable in the same way as they are with litigation. The standard practice is for the parties to split the cost of the mediator equally.
Mediation succeeds more often than it fails, but if the mediation should fail, then the case would be referred back to Petty Debts Court for it to continue to a hearing.
In a contested case, the plaintiff has to file a statement of claim, which is a formal document in which the relevant facts should be set out logically and chronologically. It is vital to include each and every fact that will be relied on. If something is not written down or pleaded, it could seriously jeopardise your case.
The defendant must then file an answer, which should deal with each issue as raised by the plaintiff in the statement of claim. It should be clear from the response whether the defendant denies an allegation or accepts it. The defendant must include a brief outline of their defence. Occasionally the answer might reveal a counterclaim against the plaintiff, in which case the plaintiff must file a response addressing that.
The Petty Debts Court in Jersey will set time limits for each of these pleadings and, if either party is late, then the other party can apply to have the case struck out or for judgment in default, depending on which side you are on.
The plaintiff will need to present their case and call witnesses to prove the points set out in their statement of claim. The plaintiff and the defendant may well need to give evidence as part of their case, and if they do so, their opponent may cross-examine them. In addition to this, any witness may be asked questions by the judge.
At the end of the process, the judge will retire to consider their verdict. They will either find for the plaintiff or the defendant and make a costs order accordingly.
Pursuing a claim in Petty Debts Court in Jersey can be an expensive process. It is therefore advisable to try to settle a claim where possible. If you take a case to Petty Debts Court and lose, then it is very likely that you will have to pay the defendant’s costs, as well as your own. If you take a case to court and win, the defendant will have to pay some of your expenses, but you may still have to cover some costs yourself even if you win.
Putting all that into context and considering how quickly costs can mount up, there is a great deal to be said for trying to settle a claim, and that is why the Petty Debts Court actively encourages it.
Parslows Jersey offer a broad range of expertise to resolve disputes relating to all aspects of private or commercial disputes.