In respect of the case in question we were approached by a prospective Client who had been sued by PRA Group (UK) Limited in April 2022, and in respect of an alleged credit agreement which PRA said the Defendant had entered into with Barclays Bank UK PLC in December 2016. The principal sum claimed by PRA from the Defendant was in excess of £10,000
The Defendant had initially chosen to represent himself as a litigant in person and had, indeed, filed at Court a one sentence Defence to the Claim, merely stating ‘The plaintiff is required to provide proof of contract between the Claimant and the Defendant as per CPR 5 (5,5)’.
PRA elected to continue with their case and the matter was allocated to the small claims track and listed for a final hearing in February 2023. In the meantime, PRA had disclosed a copy of a credit agreement, statements of account, notices of assignment and a largely unredacted document relied upon as a ‘Sale Deed of Assignment’, which PRA said showed the legal transfer of the Defendant’s debt from Barclays Bank UK PLC to the Claimant.
The Defendant only instructed Joanna Connolly Solicitors just three working days before the hearing, realistically leaving no reasonable time to apply for permission to rely upon a more substantive Defence, and little time to prepare for the trial. However, the required work and preparation was expeditiously undertaken and a full authorities bundle and skeleton argument were filed at the Court in good time.
At the hearing, and despite PRA having what on the face of it appeared to be a full suite of documents, PRA’s Claim was dismissed outright. In fact, the Judge made the point in his Judgment of stressing that for the avoidance of doubt PRA’s Claim was being dismissed and not merely struck out. This was despite my opponent for PRA submitting that there was a valid credit agreement before the Court.
The Judge agreed with me that the Claimant had no legal title to bring the Claim against the Defendant and therefore had no right to bring the Claim. Furthermore, the Judge found that based on the evidence and submissions Barclays Bank UK PLC had no right to assign any debt of the Defendant’s to PRA.
Upon dismissal of the case I applied for the Defendant’s costs incurred in instructing Solicitors and defending the Claim. The case having been allocated to the small claims track, the threshold for being awarded costs is often quite a difficult obstacle to overcome, as the general provision in small claims is that each party bears its own costs, unless the successful party can convince the Court that the losing party has acted unreasonably.
The Judge agreed with me and found that PRA’s conduct during the proceedings was the ‘very definition’ of unreasonable conduct. The Judge took into account my submissions that the Claimant was authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, being the body incorporated for the protection of consumers, and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, but had merely continued to pursue a fatally flawed Claim to a final hearing at expense to everyone involved and as an exhaustion of the Court’s time and resources.
For those reasons the Court made the very rare Order that PRA was to pay the Defendant’s costs in full, as claimed, within 14 days and the Claimant’s request for more time to pay was rejected. As was the Claimant’s argument that my costs of attendance and Joanna Connolly Solicitor’s costs of dealing with the case were too high. The Judge made it clear that he would not ‘tinker’ with any of the costs claimed and in doing so made the observation that Joanna Connolly Solicitors were instructed at the last minute and that, when he was in practice, this would have been deemed as ‘emergency work’.
Without going into great detail as to the reasons why the PRA’s Claim was dismissed, and why PRA were found to have no legal title to the alleged debt in the Claim, this is another clear example whereby, regardless of what documents a Claimant may produce, be it on their face compliant or not, this is not the be all and end all of a consumer debt Claim. Conversely, there are many more further facets to such a Claim that a Claimant must be required to prove.
As this case demonstrates, it is important those being sued by the likes of PRA, or any Claimant, seek legal advice. Joanna Connolly Solicitors’ initial advice and discussion is always free and we will always be open and honest with any prospective Client as to their realistic prospects of success.
In this case alone, it demonstrates that even a one sentence Defence filed by an individual consumer with no legal experience can be enough to overcome what appears to be a substantially made out Claim, if the legal argument is properly set out and formal legal representation is sought.