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If your statement of claim or defence says too little in terms of facts or doesn’t clearly set out the legal basis for your claim may result in it being struck out. Saying too much may result in giving the opponent a tactical advantage or weakening your case if you try and argue too many different alternatives (see below).
Another surprisingly common mistake with particulars of claim or defence is to get facts wrong. You should only include facts which you are 100% sure you can prove, not speculative facts which you think you might be able to prove depending on what the opponent says or discloses.
It is also important to check the Civil procedure Rules (CPR) when drafting a claim as for some types of claims there re specific rules requiring the inclusion of content for the claim. For instance, if the claim is for breach of a written contract, the particulars of claim should have a copy of the contract attached (or, if it is a large document, the relevant parts). Where the claim is based on an oral agreement, the particulars of claim should set out the words that were used to create the oral agreement and state by whom, to whom, when and where they were spoken.
The defendant should respond carefully and clearly to all main facts and legal causes put forward in the statement of claim.
The most obvious ways to do this are to either admit certain factual allegations or to deny them. Of course, you may deny some facts and admit others.
However, there is also a 3rd category of answering allegations and this is known as “non-admissions”.
Where, as defendant you are not in a position to state whether what the claimant alleges is true or not, you should neither admit nor deny, but instead state that you do not admit the fact and that will mean you take a neutral stance on it.
So, it is common for a defence to include a variety of admissions, non-admissions and denials. Where there is a denial, it would be expected that the defendant will also state the alternative version of events if there is any, rather than a bare denial, simply saying that the claimant is lying.
The above indicates the complexities of pleading a case and the implications of getting it wrong can be very significant. It is also important to be aware that in cases other than straightforward debt collections, it is also common for a lawyer drafted claim to put forward legal claims in the alternative, under a number of different labels, so that if one argument fails, there is secondary or alternative argument that may succeed.
If you need advice about starting a civil claim, drafting your claim or how to put in a formal defence to a claim, get in touch. Our litigation team is very experienced.