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Hi, this is Jim, thank you for the question - I will do my best to resolve this quickly for you.
Sorry to hear of the issue. You can refuse mediation as it is optional and only works if a) both sides agree to it and b) there is some common ground - which there isn't. My view is that you should press on with the claim. It will take a few months to resolve with it being contested but I see no problem with the merits as the damage was not your fault. I am sure you will win the claim - once you do, there are a variety of enforcement methods you can use if the owner still doesn't pay your claim, including bank account freeze (third party debt order), summons to court for questioning over their ability to pay, charging order on their property, bankruptcy (if they owe £5K ore more), attachment of earnings order if they are employed, etc. To answer your question, you are not obligated to participate in mediation even though the courts encourage it. If the owner flatly refuses to pay anything then it would be a waste of time and you should simply continue with the court proceedings. You might want to consider an application to strike out their defence if their defence has no merit - it would be a way of getting this court case over and done with sooner rather than letting it run its course. I would only recommend you make such an application if the defence has no merit though. I can give you the information you need it you want to attempt this - you should first invite them to settle within 7 days and tell them if they don't, you will apply to strike out the defence. The court would grant your application (at a hearing, after listening to you both) if you can show their defence has no merit and there is no good reason to let the claim run its course to a final hearing.
I hope this helps and answers the question which is easy to understand - please feel free to ask me anything else. I will reply as soon as I can to help with any further queries.
Thanks for using our services and have a good day,Jim
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Well if she wants to succeed in her defence she needs to show dates with the photographs to stand the best chance of success. It would come down to that and also your word against hers.