New rules have recently been rolled out in respect of claims raised in the Sheriff Court after 1 August 2012. The amendments to the Sheriff Court rules will now allow any party to a court action to request that the Sheriff pronounce an order or grant decree in their favour, known as summary decree, in respect of a claim or defence which is clearly without merit and has no real prospect of success. If the Sheriff is satisfied that a claim or defence has no real prospect of success, and is also satisfied that that there is no "compelling reason" why summary decree should not be granted, then he may dispose of the claim or defence either in whole or in part.
Prior to the introduction of the new rules, the remedy of summary decree had only been available to a Pursuer in circumstances where the written defences lodged did not amount to a defence to either the whole court action or part of the action. The remedy will now be available to any party. The changes address the anomaly that existed previously, where a defender in a spurious action had no means by which to subject a pursuer's case to judicial scrutiny at an early stage of proceedings, and thus circumvent otherwise lengthy and costly proceedings.
For the time being, the changes apply only in the Sheriff Court, and it remains to be seen how the Sheriff Court may react. It may well be that the Court of Session will follow suit in due course. No doubt these changes will be welcomed by Defenders.