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Civil litigation - unbelievably unfair

(66 Posts)
notreallyreallyme Wed 22-Feb-17 15:20:06

Have NC for this and not really expecting any help but just got to get it out.
Someone has a personal vendetta against DH. Last year he accused DH of taking valuable personal property from him (complete lies.)
DH suggested he go to the police. He didn't go to police but launched a civil case. The costs on both sides are huge.
The person bringing the case has a lot of money so costs etc not an issue. Completely different situation for us and the costs are crippling us.
He is also able to pay huge sums for expert witnesses (who just seem to be saying whatever he pays them to say ??)
I don't want try and settle because DH has done absolutely nothing wrong but the stress is unbearable. The financial impact of settling would be life changing anyway but if we keep going and then lose - we would literally lose everything.
I realise there's nothing anyone can say to help - but before this I really believed in the justice system. I now know how naive I was. Basically if you have a lot of money - you can make someone's life a misery.

Apparently in France at quite an early stage someone looks at the case to judge if there is any validity - to stop costs racking up when no case to answer. That doesn't happen here.

We've been told that even if we win we will never see our costs again because other party will just default and we don'thave the money to take out a case against them sad

Sorry so long - not even sure why I've written this. Just needed to write it down.

titchy Wed 22-Feb-17 19:00:03

Why are the costs crippling you? Can you just turn up and answer any questions. It's up to the other party to prove the case surely?

notreallyreallyme Wed 22-Feb-17 19:31:43

The burden of proof is lower in the civil courts ( so it's on 'the balance of probabilities' rather than 'beyond all reasonable doubt' like in the criminal
Courts) plus its all incredibly complicated so we need a solicitor etc to help us work through the process.
If it was a case of turning up at court on a given date then we would have an attempt to do the defence ourselves but there is a whole process of disclosure beforehand.

Hope that makes sense. I find the fact that we are in this position totally baffling.

notreallyreallyme Wed 22-Feb-17 22:25:45

Bump

LurkingHusband Thu 23-Feb-17 10:53:08

Isn't there a mechanism to ask the court to require the plaintiff to put money into the court against any costs orders ?

I'm sure that how a lot of canny people manage to dodge being sued.

Have you got any legal cover with your home insurance ? Maybe worth a phone call ...

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_for_costs

RedHelenB Thu 23-Feb-17 13:05:25

Surely the first question asked was did you report it to the pol;ice? Expert witmesses surely arent necessary in a theft case?

minipie Thu 23-Feb-17 13:19:26

Apparently in France at quite an early stage someone looks at the case to judge if there is any validity - to stop costs racking up when no case to answer.

In England you can apply for the case to be struck out, or summary judgment in your favour, if you think the case has no merit. It doesn't happen automatically, you have to apply for it (or sometimes the court does it off its own bat if it thinks the claim is obviously bullshit). But you can apply.

Trouble is if the case is very factually complicated the court is likely to decide it needs to hear all the evidence before making a decision.

minipie Thu 23-Feb-17 13:20:51

Isn't there a mechanism to ask the court to require the plaintiff to put money into the court against any costs orders ?

Yes - application for security for costs. But only if you think the claimant has the money or assets to pay your eventual costs but is about to hide or dispose of that money/asset. If the claimant just doesn't have the money, there isn't much you can do. (Except wonder how they are paying their lawyers...)

Optimist1 Thu 23-Feb-17 13:26:11

I must emphasise that I have no legal expertise whatever (apart from being an avid reader of crime novels) but the first thing that leaps to my mind is that the very fact that your DH's accuser hasn't gone down the criminal route indicates that he's been advised that the chances of succeeding are poor. I hope your solicitor works effectively for you both and wish you luck.

FreeNiki Thu 23-Feb-17 13:26:42

Expert witnesses for what?

Did you check if you have legal cover on your house insurance?

LurkingHusband Thu 23-Feb-17 15:55:36

If the claimant just doesn't have the money, there isn't much you can do.

Depends how rich your lawyers are. Wasn't there a libel case a while back where the plaintiff - who was loaded - forced the defendants backers to demonstrate they had the money to pay in damages if he won before the case could be heard ?

Floggingmolly Thu 23-Feb-17 15:59:30

He's been accused of stealing something, with no proof whatsoever. How is his defence so incredibly complicated that it's bankrupting you ( for what? Legal advice?)
Doesn't a witness in a court case just show up and give his version of events? confused

Raaaaaaaaaaaaa Thu 23-Feb-17 16:01:42

Agree check if you cover under an insurance policy. Also, did your solicitor give you funding options when they took the case on?

Agree if it's complicated then summary judgment (assessing the merits early) is an unlikely solution. If you do win and get a Costs Order in your favour then be sure to move quickly to secure it against any known assets of the Claimant. You can check if he owns property - use the land registry website - and then go for a charging order. However, if he is litigious be prepared for appeals etc dragging this out.

notmyfirst Thu 23-Feb-17 16:35:50

If the costs are bleeding you dry, then settle surely? It's less stress in the long run and unless he stole a house or ferrari, the cost is going to be less than going to court and if you offer to settle for say 75% of the debt then they'd need a very good reason (better than "I wanted more money") to turn it down surely. Sometimes if the cost is crippling then it may be worth more in the long run to just give in.

FreeNiki Thu 23-Feb-17 18:22:24

If they offer to settle his claim they concede. That means they pay his damages and costs on top of their own costs.

What the hell is your solicitor doing if you're on here. Havent they advised you about settlement?

notreallyreallyme Thu 23-Feb-17 18:33:27

Thank you so much for the replies. I really wasn't expecting any.
I've spent much of today in tears about it all (we also have a serious health issue in the family so all very difficult st the moment.)

In answer to questions:

Because the allegations are entirely false we initially didn't want to think about settling because it just seemed ludicrous to give him a penny when it is all lies. To be honest though we were incredibly naive and had no idea that the costs would spiral like this. I also had a foolish belief in the British justice system (just didn't think there was anyway it could get this far without any 'actual' evidence.)

We now realise how naive we have been and that it may be better to try and settle (would cost a huge amount now because we would also have to pay their costs up to now) but if we don't and then lose the case we would lose our home. (Plus we have been advised that could take at least another year and can't bear the thought of all the stress.)

Sorry I realise there isn't anything anyone can do about it - but it has helped writing it down.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 23-Feb-17 18:42:15

I am struggling as to what the case is.

Is it a civil case for theft which is very,very unusal? If so, what evidence does an "expert" have to give.

Or is it copyright/trademark theft or something like that?

What is the thing allegedly taken and where is it now?

notreallyreallyme Thu 23-Feb-17 18:45:48

Sorry pressed send too quickly:

- house insurance doesn't cover because of the nature of the allegation

- they haven't been anywhere near police which tells you all you need to know about the allegations

- expert witnesses have been used to try and 'prove' that money is missing.

Thank you to everyone who has mentioned the 'security against costs'. We did go part of the way through that process but unfortunately it isn't applicable in this case. (The detail around that is too identifying to go into detail.)

Thank you ! To everyone who took time to reply. I just can't believe we are in this situation. Only good thing is that DH is very loved by a close group of friends who are being supportive.

notreallyreallyme Thu 23-Feb-17 18:47:56

Allthebest it is theft of actual money. It is very unusual you are right.
The claimant hasn't been anywhere near police which tells you all you need to know about the amount of real evidence

notreallyreallyme Thu 23-Feb-17 18:52:45

"Trouble is if the case is very factually complicated the court is likely to decide it needs to hear all the evidence before making a dec"

Hi yes - we have been told that it won't be struck out at this stage as complicated.

Floggingmolly Thu 23-Feb-17 18:54:23

Why on earth is alleged theft not being dealt with in the criminal courts?

Floggingmolly Thu 23-Feb-17 18:55:59

What "expert witness" can prove money is missing? Do you mean an accountant?

HecateAntaia Thu 23-Feb-17 19:03:27

an expert witness cant demonstrate that your husband stole money, only that the books have been fiddled somehow or tills if thats the claim.

i wouldnt settle. courts are reluctant to label people thieves without good proof. plus if you settled would he - or could he - use that as admission and then go to the police? (just a question. i dont know how these things work)
was your husband the bookkeeper or in finance or anything?
i

notreallyreallyme Thu 23-Feb-17 19:09:59

Sorry for confusion - in the paperwork they are described as 'expert witness' but yes it is accountants.

notreallyreallyme Thu 23-Feb-17 19:14:57

Hecate DH had access to the money. (He just didn't take any of it !)
My view was exactly the same i.e. that we definitely shouldn't settle but the stress on the family is becoming unbearable.
I am also really concerned about the whole issue of the burden of proof being lower in civil cases.

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