What can we do about a court judgment that arrived while our office was closed? Mark Lim writes for The Times
21 June 2021
We have just opened the post after two months away from the office to find a court judgment against us. It was filed by a supplier who is claiming that we owe them money. What can we do?
A: Lots of businesses have only checked their post intermittently over the past 15 months and legal claims may still be served by posting to a trading premises, rather than more Covid-era friendly alternatives such as email.
If you do not respond in a timely manner the person who made the claim has the right to apply to the court for judgment to be given against you. It is a relatively simple process, as the prime minister found to his cost recently. For money claims it involves little more than ticking a box and filing a form at court. A judgment is later issued without the matter coming before a judge at all.
If that has happened to you already you can try to set aside the judgment. If the supplier did not have a right to obtain the judgment — perhaps the debt claimed has already been paid or was never owed in the first place — this should be straightforward.
If you can prove that the claim papers were not served properly you have a right to set aside the judgment. It is difficult to prove a negative and you may have little to say other than that you cannot find any trace of the papers. On the other hand, a well-advised claimant should be in a position to prove that the claim was indeed served properly.
If you know the claim is valid and you overlooked the claim papers by not checking your post, your application can still succeed but you will need to demonstrate that you have a good case. Success is at the discretion of the court and the judge will take account of how quickly you apply after the judgment was given against you.
If you do owe the money the best approach is to swallow your pride and pay up quickly, even if you do not like the way your supplier has gone about collecting it. Interest will be accruing on the debt at 8 per cent.
Any delay in making payment may also have an impact on your credit rating: if the debt is paid within one month of the judgment it is possible to apply for what is called a certificate of cancellation. This means the judgment will not feature in the register of judgments at all.
After one month it is only possible to apply for a certificate of satisfaction, meaning that the judgment will still feature on the register for the next six years but will be marked satisfied.
This article was first produced for The Times Enterprise Network. Please note this article is behind a paywall.