Judgment by Default & Costs by Default - Tough Justice to Litigants in Person
May this be a warning to Litigants in Person, the Court may be a little more lenient, but there is only so much they will let you get away with….
The Defendant in this matter fitted a boiler at the Claimant's property. Shortly afterwards the boiler stopped working and the Defendant attended the Claimant's property to undertake repairs. A couple of days later, and without further interference, the boiler exploded!
The letter of claim was sent to the Defendant in January 2012. But no response was received until the middle of March at which point the Defendant requested details of the cost of repairs and a breakdown of the same. This was provided to the Defendant, who did not respond, and was followed by the sending on quantum information; but still no response.
In July 2012 the Defendant was contacted again, and asked to advise whether he was passing the matter to his insurer or dealing with it himself. He was given 7 days before proceedings were issued. A response was finally received from the Defendant six days after this but here he simply commented on the claim and made no further admissions. The Claimant yet again tried to enter a discussion with the Defendant but alas, still nothing.
The Claimant eventually ran out of patience and proceedings were issued in March 2013 - the Defendant filed an Acknowledgement of Service but no further documents. As no Defence had been filed, the Claimant obtained Judgment by Default.
A Bill of Costs was drafted by Paragon Costs Solutions and served directly on the Defendant with Points of Dispute due by 18 July 2013. 18 July 2013 came and went but nothing at all was received from the Defendant.
A Determination Hearing took place on 20 August 2012 in relation to the initial Default Judgment, which the Defendant had asked to pay in instalments.
In September 2013 the Claimant applied for, and was granted, a Default Costs Certificate.
The Default Costs Certificate was forwarded to the Defendant with a request for payment but still no response or payment came from the Defendant. Enforcement action was taken and a charge was registered against the Defendant’s property at a hearing in February 2014.
On 28 March 2014 notice was received advising that the Defendant was planning on making an application to set aside the Default Costs Certificate.
The application was heard in July of this year and the judge refused to exercise his discretion to set aside the Certificate. The Defendant to have been unaware of the judgment until he received notice of the charging order hearing in January 2014 and pleaded that the delay in making the set aside application had been caused by his Costs Lawyers who had delayed in preparing the Points of Dispute which needed to be served at the same time as the application.
The judge considered that a prudent solicitor might have served the application and then later served Points of Dispute separately rather than waiting. He considered that even counting from the date of knowledge the Defendant had taken 67 days to make the application which was far too long.
Judgment by Default and Costs by Default. The message from the Court could not be clearer.