The need to properly evidence a debt claim - A warning to all Claimants

The case of Emery Planning Partnership Ltd v Bevan [2022] EWHC 494 (QB) provides a helpful insight into the approach taken by the Court towards the failure by a Claimant to evidence a debt claim and is a stern reminder for Claimant’s to properly evidence sums due.

By way of background, the Claimant provided planning services to the Defendant. The Claimant invoiced the Defendant for the planning services rendered and the Defendant paid all but six outstanding invoices to the Claimant.

A claim was issued for sums due pursuant to the six outstanding invoices and a defence and counterclaim were filed by the Defendant alleging breach of duty, causing the Defendant financial loss.

The Court dismissed the counterclaim but found the Claimant had failed to prove the quantum of its claim for the sums alleged due under the six outstanding invoices.

The claimant had assumed in its skeleton argument that there would be no issue that the sums invoiced had been calculated correctly as the Defendant had not suggested that there had been an ‘arithmetical error’ or other flaw in the calculation of sums due under the six outstanding invoices.

At Trial, the Court held that the Defendant could rely on CPR 16.5(3) to put the Claimant to proof of the amounts alleged to be due and owing under the six outstanding invoices.

The Claimant appealed and on appeal, Turner J held that CPR 16.5(4) was most pertinent as the Defence did not expressly admit the allegation that the amounts set out in the outstanding invoices were due. Turner J therefore held that the Claimant remained obliged to evidence the six outstanding invoices, despite the absence of any particularised challenge in the pleaded defence.

The main issue on appeal was therefore whether the Court was entitled to find on the evidence before it that the burden had not been discharged.

The Court concluded that the Claimant ought to have provided evidence of who did the work, how long it took and what was involved to discharge the burden of proof

Turner J found that, save for one exception the Court had been entitled to take the view it did as to the steps which the Claimant ought to have taken to prove quantum of its claim. Turner J did find that the Court could have entered Judgment for a sum to be determined, but the Claimant had not requested this, and Turner J declined to do so on appeal.

This case serves as a caution to Claimants to properly evidence sums due, even in the absence of a challenge to the sums claimed, and whilst the Court has made it clear that each case will depend upon its own facts, it is worth Claimant’s evidencing each pleading in evidence, even those that have not been expressly denied.

Written by : Leonie-Robyn Murtagh, Associate Solicitor

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