Allocation to the correct track and whether insurer had admitted an amount in dispute
The issue in this case was whether the claim should be allocated to the fast track or remain in the small claims track (with the result that the claimant would be unable to recover the legal costs of his representation). At first instance, the judge held that the correct track was the small claims track because some of the claim (which, as originally stated, was over the threshold for the fast track) had been admitted in the defence. On appeal, the claimant argued that the defence had not included true admissions but instead only offers (i.e. if the sums admitted were not accepted, everything would be contested at trial instead). It was submitted that an admission that part of a sum claimed was payable was not an admission (because CPR r14.5 provides that it does not lead to judgment unless the claimant seeks judgment).
That argument was rejected by the Court of Appeal. If the court is unclear whether an admission is unqualified, it can seek clarification from the defendant. Here, the judge had interpreted the defence as including an unqualified admission that the claimant was entitled to a certain amount. Once the court had found that the defendant had accepted that the claimant was entitled to that amount, the only sum in dispute (for allocation purposes) was the balance of the claim, which was less than the fast track threshold.