Hello Legal Expert, I have a county court claim against me filed by my business mentor in Jan 2015. My mentor is suing me for payment for a recruitment services which I contracted them for. I am disputed the invoice; as the services was not carried out as per our contract but my mentor went straight to the court. The contract was for 2 weeks to recruit 3 freelance hairdressers and barbers and 2 apprentices before my business launch date Nov 2014. But, I opened without any staff and the contract was not completed, yet I was billed. I have been left out of pocket with no staff to run my business. I believe my mentor is relying on the part of her contract that states no guarantee to recruit staff. But, I think the contract was designed in such a way that only favours them not me. By way of background, I have been self- employed for about 3yrs running my business from home until April 2014. I am trading within the hair/beauty sector selling hair extensions online. Later, I decided to expand the business by opening a hair store and salon locally so that I can serve my community and gain more business. Then, I needed some funds to bring my plans to reality. I already invested 70% of the funds on my own and need 30% funding. I opened a limited company in Feb 2014 but, started trading in May 2014 till date. I approached a loan company in April 2014 (delivery partner for start-up loans) and applied for a 30% funding in July/Aug 2014 with my supporting business plan, business accounts and cash flow statements. Then, I was granted a start-up loan in Sept 2014 to set up my hair store and salon as proposed. One of the terms and conditions of the loan contract included a mandatory business mentoring for 12 months which listed the lady who is suing me now via county court claim as my mentor. Other terms, were a debenture on company and a personal guarantee from myself to secure the loan. The funds were to be released after I the mandatory mentoring was in placed. That was how I met my mentor. My business loan manager arranged a meeting for my mentor and I in Oct 2014. Then, on our first meeting my mentor introduced me to a different mentoring scheme called the growth accelerator scheme. She said the mentor agreement I have with the loan company in relation to the start-up loans was not suitable; as I would only have 12 hours a year with her. She feels I would need more time with her. I replied that I have never been mentored before and running a business can be a very lonely place and I don't see anything wrong with the mentoring agreement. I believe it will help me. She then insisted that the Growth accelerator scheme is cheaper and cost £1700 for a service valued at £4000 +. She also advised that I will be able to claim 50% of the funding back from the government and also have access to more funding. This was how she got me to accept the growth accelerator scheme. Although, the contract did not continue once my mentor threaten to send me to court. Just to mention, that I already hold a sandwich degree BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance. I completed one year supervised placement in Human Resources. Plus, I have two existing diplomas in Accounting and business. This is obviously the knowledge that I have relied on prior to setting up my business and have benefited from this; in the way that I have successfully ran my business prior to approaching both the loan company and my mentor. Note 1: I later found out through the start-up loans company that I was entitled to free mentorship for 12 months. But, their delivery partner never offered this to me. Instead they offered the mentorship at a cost of £1800. Therefore, my mentor and the foundation east conspired to extort money from me. Note 2: I also found out from the growth accelerator moderators that the recruitment services which my mentor is suing me to court had nothing to do with the scheme and that I would not be able to claim any funding from them. Clearly, my mentor induced me to accept her HR contract knowing that I would not be able to claim the funding and now she is suing me to court to pay. Note 3: I found out through submissions of the loan company that they altered my mentorship contract. They replaced my signature page with a completely new contract tying me to a different mentor. So, that my mentor can proceed with her court case as a independent business. That is, having nothing to do with the loan company. I believe this is fraud and that they have discriminated against me from the beginning.
I have acknowledged the case and filed my defence which at the time I had money to pay for a solicitor to write my defence. My defence was filed partially because the claimant (my mentor) did not submit detailed particulars of claim as they have stated on their claim form. I also attached a draft order to struck out the claim due to lack of particularity. A hearing date was set on 24 June but due to time on the day, the judge adjourned the case to 12 Aug.
However, the judge ordered the claimant to submit their witness statements (which they did not file) and mentioned the issue he had with their particulars of claim (which was not amended and submitted late without the court’s permission); by 01 July. The claimant has now submitted their witness statement but did not re- submit a proper detailed particulars. The judge also ordered the claimant to pay me £25 for transport cost on the day.
I wrote to the court to request for permission to amend my defence since the claimant was allowed to amend their particulars and witness statements. Also, I asked to be able to claim costs back from the claimant for amending my defence. The was mentioned in my defence submitted earlier. The court now invites me to apply and pay £155 so that they can consider either of my requests above. But, they have not mentioned that I will be claiming costs back for amending my defence due to the claimant’s fault. I am not sure what to do now? I don’t have money to hire a solicitor! I do not understand how the county court works or how I should proceed from here? I am considering counterclaim for loss of business if I amend my defence. Please advice.