This case concerns a motorist who stopped briefly in the Spinningfields Estate in Manchester to set his sat nav after leaving a car park. The motorist had his hazards on and was stopped for a few seconds on the road with no nearby signage stating this was not allowed.
ES Parking issued a ticket which Mr T considered not to be valid and so did not pay. Eventually ES Parking got Gladstones to take the matter further.
As usual Gladstones failed to file a claim which complied with practice directions and refused to answer any questions about the claim. Had they done a proper job, the following debacle may have been avoided. However, Helen Cook, a solicitor from Gladstones explained that they don't have enough time or charge enough money to be able to comply with practice directions.
We issue on a vast majority of claims, majority of which are not defended and therefore it is time consuming and not financially viable to send further particulars of claim.Also as usual Gladstones tried to ambush the defendant by attempting to file new particulars in their witness statement. The defendant got in touch with The Prankster who helped file a comprehensive skeleton argument which was served on Gladstones on Tuesday 3rd January.
On Friday 6th, Helen Cook got in touch with the defendant to say their client had take a commercial decision to attempt to settle. The Prankster informed Mr T that Gladstones only did this as a last resort when they are going to bail out of the case.
On Monday 9th, Mr T decided to offer to settle if Gladstones would pay his costs to date. However, Gladstones explained they meant they wanted him to pay money, not the other way round.
Mr T declined to pay anything. Gladstones then offered to drop the case if he did not claim costs.
Mr T explained he had already spent substantial time on the case and would therefore require his costs.
At 17:06 Gladstones notified Mr T the claim was discontinued.
The Prankster advised Mr T to turn up anyway as the claim was still listed according to the court.
He went to court, booked in and asked the usher if the case was still listed to which the usher confirmed it was. Mr T told him of the discontinuance notification and he looked very confused as the court had not received a copy.
He was told to take a seat. Whilst waiting he kept on hearing people booking in for hearings relating to ES Parking much to his amusement. He also heard the name Mr Hargreaves being called which he recognised from the claim as the owner of ES Parking. As it turns out he was sat directly opposite. He was constantly asking the booking in desk about numerous hearings he had that day.
Eventually after waiting for an hour the clerk approached asking if Mr Hargreaves could speak with him to which Mr T obliged. Mr Hargreaves explained that he had now properly filed the discontinuance and that Mr T was unlikely to get any costs awarded so could we shake hands and call it a day. Mr T told him what he thought of his operation and reminded him of the disruption this whole thing had caused and declined his offer. He also pointed out that because Gladstones had not filed with the court the discontinuance and also that because it was only filed with me at 17:06 the previous day there was no way of him being able to contact either the court or Gladstones for further directions and that he had no choice but to attend court resulting in losing a days wage.
Mr Hargreaves was then called in to his first hearing of the day.
Mr T was called in to see the judge alone 15 mins later and she questioned why he still wanted to see a judge. Mr T said it was to request costs. She said because he was not self employed he could not recover costs. Mr T informed her of the time when the discontinuance was sent to which she said she would have to see both him and Mr Hargreaves together. She also said he would need to provide something from his employer to state his days pay and confirm that they had incurred costs to fill his position.
After another 15 mins they were both called back in. The judge informed Mr Hargreaves of what had been discussed and that fortunately for him according to CPR 38.6(3) it states that on the small claims track the discontinuing party does not have to pay the other side's costs when discontinuing the claim.
However she then went on to inform him that due to the discontinuance being filed with the defendant at such a late time of day meant it was impossible for the defendant to contact the relevant parties to confirm he would not need to attend the court. She then asked Mr T if he had been able to obtain something from his employer to which he asked her permission to turn on his phone to retrieve an email from his employer.
The email confirmed his pay and the judge ordered that Mr Hargreaves paid Mr T's employer is day's pay.
After the hearing Mr Hargraves explained that he had ordered Gladstones to discontinue the claim a week ago and that he would be making them pay all the costs for their incompetence.
The Prankster considers the judge was wrong in stating she could not award costs to Mr T for having to take a day's holiday. PD 27.14(2) (e) states:
a sum not exceeding the amount specified in Practice Direction 27 for any loss of earnings or loss of leave by a party or witness due to attending a hearing or to staying away from home for the purposes of attending a hearing;
Most likely the costs to his employer were awarded under the unreasonableness rule:
27.14(2)(g) such further costs as the court may assess by the summary procedure and order to be paid by a party who has behaved unreasonably
The Prankster notes that it seems like Mr Hargraves will go to court if the defendant has not done their homework and files a useless defence. However, if a strong defence is filed Mr Hargreaves will take the prudent option and discontinue.
To assist defendants, The Prankster will publish a defence based on Mr T's skeleton argument in the near future.
Mr T also reported that new signage is now in place in Spinningfields.
Sadly for the person who forked out for these, it is still forbidding and so cannot form a contract.
The Parking Prankster