The Commercial Litigation and Disputes Resolution Team at Pinney Talfourd are recognised as being one of the leading teams in Essex and London by the Legal 500, an independent and definitive guide to the best law firms in the UK.
Our lawyers have significant experience and an excellent track record of resolving cases upon favourable terms for our clients, both before proceedings are commenced, or during the various stages of the dispute.
We provide strategic and straightforward advice and are tenacious in protecting our client’s interests. We understand the commercial reality of dealing with a dispute, and the risk and pressure that may be associated with litigation. Our primary aim when acting for you is to try and resolve the dispute swiftly and upon the best possible terms at an early stage using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) where possible.
A business may not have control over when and how a dispute may arise, but they can influence how effectively any dispute is dealt with by seeking early legal advice. The financial implications of a poorly handled commercial dispute can be considerable both in terms of financial loss and business destruction. We always discuss with our clients the right strategy, decide on tactics, plan the work that will be involved, use the processes available, and deliver a result efficiently and cost-effectively.
Our Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team regularly act for clients based in Essex and London, along with clients in Europe and further afield.
The important thing is to act quickly. As soon as a court document is served on you, the clock starts ticking as generally you only have a limited period of time within which to respond. Together with the claim form, you may have received a set of documents called a “Response Pack”. You have the choice of either acknowledging service, or entering a defence. Usually, the most advisable course of action is to send off the Acknowledgement of Service to the court immediately while, at the same time, obtaining an appointment with a solicitor that specialises in commercial litigation as quickly as possible.
It is very important that you do not ignore court forms. If you fail to observe the strict deadlines, judgment can be entered against you, or you can be debarred from filing evidence.
Preparation is the key to defending legal proceedings, so the best course of action is always to contact your solicitors for legal advice as soon as you receive a claim against you.
There are several options available to businesses that have debtors that will not pay. At the outset, it is necessary to examine the reasons why your debtor will not pay. If your debtor has a genuine complaint, then there is a dispute and a keen litigator can help you try to resolve this quickly and cost-effectively through a number of processes.
Firstly, it is always advised to have a solicitor send a letter demanding immediate payment to your debtor. This will usually result in either payment of the debt, or in your debtor putting forward their complaint. Lawyers will then negotiate on your behalf. If negotiation does not produce an acceptable settlement for you, court proceedings can be considered alongside other alternative methods of dispute resolution.
The most appropriate method of resolution will depend on the circumstances of your particular case. Generally, when you wish to preserve a commercial relationship with your debtor, the most user-friendly and non-adversarial method of resolution is often mediation.
If the debt that you are owed is less than £5,000, you may also wish to consider making a claim in the small claims court. The small claims court was set up to provide individuals and businesses with a forum to resolve legal disputes without the need for legal representation. The process is a less formal and more simplified version of the full-blown court claim system. Whether you win or lose, there are usually no legal costs ordered to be paid by either side, so the parties usually bear their own legal costs. At the end of the process, if you are successful, you will obtain a judgment order which is enforceable through the courts. Please see the enforcement section below.
If your debt is between £5,000 and £15,000, any claim made in the County Court would be allocated to what is known as the “fast-track”. This means that the court will aim to list your claim for trial within 30 weeks from its commencement. Unlike the small claims court, a successful party will usually be entitled to repayment of most of their legal fees from their opponent. Parties to a dispute in the fast-track will usually have legal representation.
Disputes over sums between £15,000 and £50,000 are most often allocated to what is known as the “multi-track” of the County Court, which is a more flexible resolution procedure, and the time it takes for your matter to reach trial will depend on its complexity. Disputes involving sums over £50,000 will normally be dealt with by the High Court.
In cases where there is no apparent complaint or dispute from your debtor, there is a further alternative. Consideration will be given to the commencement of insolvency proceedings against your debtor, initially by service of what is known as a “statutory demand”.
A statutory demand is the first step in insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings. As with court claims, time is of the essence as there is a limited period to respond if you dispute the debt. This is done by applying to the court to set aside the demand. If you have no dispute over the debt, you have a period of 21 days within which to pay the debt. If you fail to take the appropriate action within these deadlines, your creditor will then be able to present a petition to the court to make your company insolvent or, if you are an individual, to make you bankrupt.
Due to the time pressures involved, you should take urgent legal advice.
In commercial and civil litigation pursuing a claim need not always lead to lengthy courtroom battles. As a leading law firm dedicated to providing comprehensive legal solutions, Pinney Talfourd LLP recognises the value of Alternative…
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