B e f o r e :
| Mrs Linda Loughlin
|- and -|
|Black Horse Limited||Defendant|
Posib, Y Gilfach, Ffordd y Pentre, Nercwys, Flintshire, CH7 4EL
Posib, DX26560 MOLD
Tel: 01352 757273
Fax: 01352 757252
For the Claimant: Mr Bragg
(instructed by Messrs Wixted & Co, London, SW18 1NP)
For the Defendant: Mr Ross
(instructed by Messrs SCM Solicitors, Cockfosters, EN4 0DY)
Crown Copyright ©
HIS HONOUR JUDGE SIMKISS:
"The value of the claim is just in excess of £2,000 on the claim form and the initial documentation. Of course, the starting point is where a claim has a value of below £5,000, its starting point, in terms of allocation and the usual course of these matters is to be allocated to the small claims track in the absence of any good reason to do otherwise."
That statement of principle is impeccable and the claim form, which is completed in this regard for the purposes of allocation, specifies that the claim is in the range of £1,500 to £3,000 and costs. This is not a point which is in the forefront of Mr Bragg's arguments but he says that, because the Court might be entitled to Order compensation under the Consumer Regulations, this could conceivably take the matter above £5,000. I am not at all convinced with that argument. It seems to me that, even if compensation were Ordered, that it is highly unlikely that it would exceed an additional sum equivalent to the amount of premium and interest and that alone would not take it above £5,000. In any case, the claim form specifies the amount claimed for the purposes of allocation and the District Judge was correct.
"The next matter that I want to deal with is the appropriate venue for the trail of these very many claims, only some of which are being dealt with by me today. The broad consensus has been that the normal case will be allocated to the fast track and even if the judgment cannot be given within a day, it is thought that the evidence usually will occupy no more than a day. Most of the cases in these Courts will, therefore, be dealt with on that track. Cases with rather more substance or complexity (and there have been some examples today) will be allocated to the multi-track…"
He goes on:
"One of the purposes of the last hearing in this one and indeed the previous case management conference before His Honour Judge Holman, was to see whether it was possible to elicit discrete preliminary issues or test cases. That was not a proposal which attracted itself either to the Claimants or the Defendants generally, largely because it was thought that these cases are fact sensitive. I have taken the view, exercising my case management powers, that, although that is right, these are not always the simplest of cases and there are concepts, such as unfair relationship and the alleged breaches if highly specific rules under ICOB, where the facts as found then have to be analysed in those contexts. It was and remains my firm view that a few selected cases, whose decisions are given prominence and the status of a High Court decision, may well give austere or provide some guidance to those who are litigating the claims here and elsewhere."
I consider that the latter is an important statement. Whilst accepting Mr Ross' submission that in that case Judge Waxman QC, in saying that normally the starting point would be the fast track, was considering a balance between the fast track and multi-track and not as here a small claim, nevertheless, his reference to the issues that arise is an important one and the need for decisions at a higher level to determine matters such as the Harrison case.
"Essentially what the argument amounts to is that, in the event that this matter is allocated to the small claims track, is the complexity of this matter, in relation to the facts, law or evidence, going to be such that essentially the matter should be allocated elsewhere? Can this be dealt with within the ordinary small claims track? Is there anything which essentially takes it out of that? It is not a straightforward question to answer, however, on balance, what this matter turns upon is funding. It is as simple as that. It is said that, if this matter is allocated to the small claims track, the client will have to reconsider his position and the relationship with the Defendant will not be on an equal footing and there will be prejudice."
What she says in conclusion is:
"I take the view that essentially there is nothing in this case which takes it outside the ambit of the small claims track. There is nothing, given the particular facts of this matter rather than the general in relation to the claim that takes it out of the small claims track and there is nothing in relation to which the Claimant cannot be assisted by the Judge dealing with the matter at trial."
That shows that the District Judge has taken into account the various factors that arose and she was aware of Judge Waxman's decision in the Manchester PPI litigation, which I have referred to and was shown a copy of the judgment and both passages in that judgment were underlined in the copy that she was sent.
"The appeal Court will allow an appeal where the decision of the lower Court was:
(a) wrong; or
(b) unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings in the lower Court."
The issue here is whether the decision was wrong.
"The appellate Court should only interfere where they consider that the Judge of first instance has not merely preferred an imperfect solution which is different from an alternative imperfect solution which the Court of appeal might or would have adopted but has exceeded the generous ambit within which a reasonable disagreement is possible."
And then in Phonographic Performance Ltd v AEI Redifussion Music Ltd  1 WLR 1507, at 1523:
"Before the Court can interfere it must be shown that the Judge has either erred in principle in his approach or has left out of account or has taken into account some feature that he should or should not have considered, or that his discretion was wholly wrong because the Court is forced to the conclusion that he has not balanced the various factors fairly in the scale."
End of judgment