Part 18 Request
This is an easy stage, as all you are doing is sending out a letter. There is a template letter here.
Often the claim is woefully and deliberately short of detail. This is to ensure the weaknesses in any claim or the absence of supporting information is hidden from you. You should send a list of questions called a Part 18 request to get some of this information or to confirm the supporting information does not exist.
Part 18 requests should be sent in response either to a Letter before Claim or the actual claim itself. You use the Part 18 to help narrow down the claim to its core parts - the bits you intend to defend. So you can ask about:
- Standing and or authority
- Contractual details
You are only asking for additional information at this stage to clarify the claim.
An extensive and meaningless list of questions will be ignored by the Claimant as you are not allowed to go on a "fishing expedition". Just ask the questions you feel are sufficient to clarify the basis of the claim.
The site Out-Law.com gives a summary of the benefits and drawbacks of a Part 18 request.
A Part 18 request can be a powerful tool to be used in extracting information from the other party. It may provide a more informed insight into the other party's case or exert pressure on the other party to provide a complete picture of its case. However, these benefits must be weighed against the fact that a Part 18 request may also highlight a party's line of inquiry and tactics generally. Most importantly, it may also enable the other party to improve its case.
A Part 18 request is best in circumstances where the first party knows that the second party is withholding information and this needs to be brought out into the open. In other words, the question to be asked before making a Part 18 request is whether there is any advantage to be gained from requesting information or clarification of a matter in dispute where the answer may already be known.
What happens if they don't reply?
Certain "ambulance chasing" solicitors will not reply or state that Part 18 requests are not part of the Small Claims system. Technically they are correct but if they do not, then you just add this refusal to your defence, stating that the Claimant Failed to
- identify their cause of action,
- failed to clarify any questions, and
- worked against the principles of the Civil Procedure Rules by obstructing the resolution of the case in a cynical abuse of process.
You can still get a lot of information later in the process by using a Subject Access Request which has the backing of the Data Protection Act, and cannot be ignored in the same way as a Part 18 might be.
Example Part 18 Letter