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Buachaill, Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10944
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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I am a defendant in a small claims case in which a neighbour

Customer Question

Hi, I am a defendant in a small claims case in which a neighbour has alleged that i damaged the plastic roof of a lean to shed buy lighting a fire. He has claimed ~£900 for the cost of repairing the roof. This happened almost 6 years ago I denied responsibility at the time and wrote back laying out the facts. 6 years later he has decided to to take this action.
I have never had any fires in the garden and am in no way responsible for the damage. I have filled in all the forms and submitted a defence. I now have a hearing on Dec 5th.
My understanding is that the claimant has to prove that I am responsible for the damage but since I didn't do it I cant see how he can. He has been economical with the truth in his claim and I am concerned about what other tactics he might employ at the hearing.
I would like to know whether I should get legal representation for the hearing or whether I can have someone look over the facts/documents and advise a course of action.
Grateful for any advice
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.
1. Be aware that unless there was some form of contract in place between yourself and your neighbour that covered the fire or the shed, this claim of your neighbour's is now statute barred as it has been taken outside the three year time limit allowed for this type of action. So you can successfully defend any legal proceedings by pleading the Statue of Limitations. As a fall back you can make reference to the facts and to your clear denial at the time of the incident. However, it is now too late for your neighbour to recover damages from you as too much time has elapsed since the fire occurred. If you have not already pleaded the Statute of limitations, you can go back and amend your defence to plead that the case is time barred. It will be necessary to specifically plead this point in your defence as the claimant, your neighbour must be put on notice that you are relying on this defence. I would not advise you to use legal representation if you feel you are able to represent yourself. The Small Claims procedure is informal and designed to allow people to represent themselves. Employing a solicitor would mean that costs would quickly rise to more than the £900 which is the cost of the shed. So you are better off representing yourself.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for your reply. For the avoidance of doubt, there never was any fire and the damage was clearly natural and due to aging and weather. The neighbour alleges there was (after previously saying the damage was caused by a BBQ and then a Patio heater both of which are impossible.) but I categorically denied this and also wrote back to him denying responsibility and asking him to stop making further allegations.With regard to the 3 year limit, I was advised that the limit was 6 years by a legal colleague at work. If the limit is definitely 3 years then this seems like a good defence but I want to make it clear in any further submission that I am 100% not responsible for any damage and the incidents that my neighbour alleges did not take place,Re a contract, at no time did I accept responsibility or agree to pay for any damage so there was definitely no contract. We had a conversation during which he accused me of causing the damage, and in which I denied responsibility. He then sent us a invoice for the work which was not requested and unexpected. Almost 6 years later , he decided to go to the small claims court. In his submission to the small claims court, my neighbour states that I initially accepted responsibility then changed my mind. This is untrue and at best a lapse of memory or at worst an outright lie.I have a few further questions.If the limit is 3 years, could you please advise if you would be able to help with the wording of an amendment to my defence
to ensure I use the correct legal terminology.The hearing date is Dec 5th. The claimant has to produce evidence, statements etc by Oct 1st after which I have until 15th October to do the same. Should I wait until I receive his submission or amend by defence straight away.Thanks
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.
2. The time limit is only six years if there was a contract in place between you. Otherwise it is 3 years. YOur colleague at work is incorrect here. An appropriate wording to deny liability is "The Defendant will rely upon the Statute of Limitations to defend the claim and any claim made is time barred and not recoverable." I would advise you to amend the Defence right away as otherwise the claimant will be seeking to further amend his submission. Be aware that if the Small Claims court accepts the limitation of actions defence none of the evidence denying liability will be necessary. However, I note what you say.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
thanks. I assume that to amend my claim i have to submit form N244 ?
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.
3. NO, you simply reserve the Replying to Claim form you submitted the first time out and put the words "amended" before it and underline the paragraph that now pleads the Limitation of actions point.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks. Dont I need permission from the court to do that as the original statement of case / defence was submitted over a month ago and has been served ?Sorry for all the questions. Hopefully this is the last one.
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.
4. In strict point of law you need permission of the court. But as informality is the byeword for the Small Claims court simply serve the amended Defence and apply subsequently to validate the service. Be sure you have a Certificate of postage for the sending of the document. However, if you wish you can make a separate application to serve an amended Defence.