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URGENT help needed re debt claim(6 Posts)
I'm posting on behalf of a friend who I've been helping with a debt claim.
Basically, her daughter went to a private school and my friend got behind with the payments. However, she was not invoiced for any fees in the last year that her daughter was at the school and is not sure how much she owes, but she knows she has made some payments towards the fees. She does not deny owing money, but has not been contacted by the school to make payment for the balance.
A couple of months ago a debt collection agency contacted her by phone to threaten Court proceedings as she had, in their words, been ignoring requests for payment from them and the school. In that conversation it transpired that for some reason an incorrect address had been used.
Anyway, despite trying to get a breakdown of what was owed to the school / how much of the requested amount was for the debt collection agency's fees, nothing was forthcoming. Also, no documentation was received relating to the debt itself to show what was owed. (The sols now instructed claim it was posted, but nothing ever arrived.)
My friend was told that the matter would be put on hold until they had sent everything we had requested.
Then she received Court proceedings issued through the Bulk Centre. There was nothing attached to these proceedings relating to the debt, i.e. no invoices / PoC etc. All we know is the amount claimed is what is on the claim form.
I work in litigation, but nothing to do with money claims and don't know where to go with this one.
We filed an AoS giving us the extra time to file a Defence.
We wrote to the dealing sols and advised that we didn't have the necessary info to do a Defence so requested a breakdown, accounting information to show the amounts she has paid and the invoices relating to the debt. We asked for an extension for the Defence so we could then draft this once we had full and accurate information about the debt / fees.
We have been provided with invoices which do not tally with the amount claimed, so have repeatedly asked for a breakdown and the accounting information showing debits / payments. The solicitors claim that what is provided is adequate and that they have no requirement to disclose anything further until the List of Documents stage of the claim and won't give us anything else.
To get to the point: the Defence is due on Tuesday, but I don't think I can draft an adequate Defence as I can't, for instance, say yes to the Court fees but no to any interest / charges due to minimal / inadequate communication / requests pre-issue.
Do I a) file a partial Defence stating the above, or b) file an Application for disclosure of the required docs with Defence to be filed 28 days after disclosure?
I can draft an Application without any problem. As I work in a different field, acting for Claimants, I'm really concerned about how good a Defence I could draft. I don't want to screw this up for my friend, but she can't afford a solicitor and the CAB refused to help as it was already issued.
Can somebody who deals with debt claims give me a hand and let me know my best course of action? If you think a Defence is best, can you give me drafting pointers so I don't muck it up?
As an aside, the debt collection agency called her yesterday to say that they were awarded Judgment on 29th August and would file for bankruptcy and 'have her house'. I called the Court today and their request for Judgment was refused as an AoS had been filed. Their tactics have been aggressive to say the least.
Sorry this is long, but I didn't want to drip feed.
Thank you in advance for your help, as I really want to do the best I can but need help from someone experienced as to the next step I should take.
Given how soon the Defence is due I would probably get a Defence filed but not admit/require proof of every fact stated which your friend isn't in a position to admit. You don't have to actively defend if you can't actually ascertain what the proper response is. There is also nothing wrong with making admissions in principle that sums are due but disputing quantum.
Where the Particulars of Claim state that x amount is due, respond that "paragraph [ ] is not admitted. The Claimant has failed, despite repeated requests by the Claimant, to provide a full breakdown of the alleged debt. The Claimant is put to strict proof of every alleged fact stated in the Particulars of Claim."
I would suggest you file alongside the Defence a Request for Further Information under CPR 18 given you say insufficient information of the breakdown of the debt has been provided. Remember though that you will need to be specific in the information sought.
That's great, thank you. I'll get drafting later. :-)
Another desperate question now. She's received a letter today saying the debt collection agency will attend her house and are looking to make her bankrupt for the sum owed. Can they do this while proceedings are ongoing?
No they can't - unless they have a judgment as they have suggested previously, it certainly sounds as though they are playing on their threat to execute the default judgment they supposedly have. If there are solicitors involved for the debt collectors I would think a strongly worded telephone call is in order given that you've been told the request for judgment was refused.
In the meantime HungryHorace I would strongly recommend that your friend considers making a Part 36 offer given that she presumably accepts that some money is due. It would be ridiculous to let this go all the way to judgment in circumstances where she is likely to be found liable, even if there is an issue over quantum.
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