Dealing with disputes; preparation is the key – It can save a bundle!
A case last month at the High Court demonstrated how a lack of preparation can cause an adverse impact. The case of PM Project Services Ltd v Dairy Crest Ltd  EWHC 1235 (TCC) concerned disputed invoices of £1.2m for construction work. An application made to court was supported by a witness statement together with 750 pages of exhibits. However, the bundles for the hearing had been paginated incorrectly, so that there was a mismatch with the page references in the witness statement and exhibits and those in the bundle.
This meant that the Judge spent two hours (out of the allocated three hours reading time) reading the papers and struggling to decipher the material. Unable to make sense of it all, he adjourned the matter. The bundles were returned to the solicitor acting to be corrected. More significantly, PM Project Services Ltd who had made the application was ordered to pay the costs resulting from the adjournment.
This case serves as a warning that by failing to prepare you could be preparing to fail. It is vital that you save yourself from the embarrassment and more importantly the costs of being in a similar predicament as described in the case above.
5 definitive tips on dealing with disputes and complaints
When faced with a dispute or making/responding to a complaint, remember the following:
Before you start ensure that all the paperwork you have is collated together and ordered systematically. This will help you to formulate your complaint or response. If you decide to instruct a solicitor, having all the paperwork properly organised beforehand will also speed up the process and save costs. It is unlikely that you want to pay a solicitor put your documents in date order! Remember the documents should include all relevant documents, whether they help or hinder your case.
Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to prepare and go through the necessary paperwork. It sounds obvious but a last minute dash to throw a response together increases the chances of mistakes or omissions happening. It also does not create a good impression.
3. Check and check again
Before sending any correspondence to the opposing side it is important that you read through and review what you are going to send. Trying to correct errors or omissions afterwards, whilst possible, can complicate matters and increase costs, so ensure you get it right the first time. Also any errors may be used against you later in court to question your credibility. Remember, your solicitor relies upon the information you provide them with. If it is incorrect they will not be accountable for the problems that result.
4. Follow the Court’s orders
If the claim does proceed to court, remember to comply with any directions or deadlines they set. These will include disclosure and inspection of documents, exchanging witness statements and preparing trial bundles. If you do not follow these then the Courts can issue you with a fine or even strike out your claim/defence, which could result in you having to pay the other party’s legal costs. If you are defending a claim and your defence is struck out, this could result in a County Court Judgment being issued against you which in turn can affect your credit rating.
5. If in doubt, seek assistance
If you are unsure about any aspect of your dispute or complaint it is important that you seek legal advice and assistance to give yourself the best chance with your matter. Being morally ‘right’ and legally ‘right’ are not always the same thing.
At JFH Law, we are experienced in dealing with disputes and regularly assist clients who either wish to bring a claim or defend one. Quite often, through our expertise a matter can be resolved without having to go court. Our experience puts us in good stead to ensure that you will be properly advised and your matter will be thoroughly prepared.
If you find this article interesting, please like, comment and share it!
Jigna Vekaria, Solicitor
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.