The Claims Process – Replying to the defence, and defending any counterclaim
In the previous article in this mini series we looked at the defendant’s defence to the claim and the defendant’s ability to bring a counter claim.
In this article, we look at the next step in the claims process: the claimant’s reply to the defence, and the claimant’s defence to any counterclaim.
The Reply to a Defence
A claimant who receives a defence is not required to take any further step. However, sometimes a claimant will want to react to the defence or deal with any allegations made by the defendant in the defence. This is done via a statement of case, called a reply to the defence.
A reply to a defence must not contradict any earlier statement of case. Therefore, it must be consistent with the Claim Form already filed with the Court and must not bring in any new claim.
Whilst it is not mandatory for a claimant to reply to the defendant’s defence, there are benefits to replying to a defence; serving a reply gives the claimant an opportunity to respond to matters raised by the defendant which have not been raised in the claim and a reply can also usefully admit a fact alleged in the defence, which provides focus for the parties by narrowing the issues in dispute.
It is important to note that a claimant who does not file a reply is not taken to have admitted the matters raised in the defence.
The Defence to Counterclaim
Unlike the reply to a defence, which is not mandatory, where the defendant has filed a counterclaim against the claimant, the claimant must file a defence to counterclaim if they dispute the counterclaim claim.
The defence to a counterclaim must deal with every allegation made by the defendant in the counterclaim by either admission, denial or making no admission.
The counterclaim is drafted following the same rules as the defence, for details on drafting the defence - please see our previous Article in this series.
A defence to counterclaim may be drafted as a separate document or be incorporated into a "Reply and Defence to Counterclaim".
When to reply and defend the counterclaim
The Civil Procedure Rules set out that a reply to a defence is to be filed with the Court, and served on the defendant at the same time as the Directions Questionnaire (we deal with the Directions Questionnaire in a later Article in this mini series).
Despite the deadline set out in the Civil Procedure Rules, if possible, the reply to the defence should be filed and served before the directions questionnaire, to enable the claimant to consider the defence to counterclaim and reply before they file their directions questionnaire.
A party filing a defence to a counterclaim must file and serve the same within 14 days of the counterclaim. If this deadline is missed, the defendant may be able to obtain judgement in default against the claimant. It is therefore vital that the deadline is adhered to.