Small Claims Jurisdiction
The District Court Small Claims procedure is intended as an informal method for resolution of disputes. The proceedings take place before the District Court Clerk, who acts as the Small Claims Registrar. Generally, lawyers will not be involved. In accordance with the District Court rules, the claim must be made, where the respondent lives, where damages took place or where the contract was made.
A small claim is one not exceeding €2,000 in value, where the applicant is a consumer. A consumer is person acting in the purchase of goods or services for private consumption. He must not enter the transaction in the course of business. There are number of types of small claims. They may relate to a consumer contract, claims for damage to property and claims by a tenant for return of deposit, unless referred to the PRTB.
The application is commenced by completing the prescribed form and lodging it with the Small Claims Registrar. The Registrar enters details of the claim in records and reviews it as necessary, in order to ascertain the facts. He may interview the claimant. If the claim is one which may be dealt with under the small claims procedure, the Registrar serves notice of the claim on the respondent.
The notice of claim form includes notice of dispute and notice of acceptance of liability forms. The respondent may detach and return the relevant form, either by way of acceptance of liability or denial of the claim. This must be done within 15 days. If the claim is accepted, it must be paid to the claimant in full. If it is accepted conditionally, the Registrar may seek agreement in relation to the conditions.
Where payment by installments is proposed, the Registrar must seek the consent of the claimant. Where the claim is admitted, the procedure for entry of a small claims judgment is applied and judgment is entered. If the respondent disputes the claim, he returns a notice of denial of the claim and dispute within 15 days. Where the respondent himself has a claim, he may return a notice of counterclaim. The Registrar then notifies the claimant of the counterclaim.
Settlements and Decrees
If a compromise is not reached, the Small Claims Registrar must use best endeavours to settle the dispute. He may interview the parties and any other relevant partiesr. If a settlement is entered, it is recorded in writing. If the settlement is not complied with, the Registrar may proceed to judgment, if so requested. Notice is given to the respondent party.
If the settlement cannot be reached, the matter is referred to the District Court for hearing. The Small Claims Registrar may at any time and without request, refer applications to the District Court under the small claims procedure. This registrar notifies the parties of the place and time of the hearing. The Small Claims Registrar makes himself available to assist the court.
If the respondent either fails to admit or dispute the claim within 15 days of receiving copies of the claim, he is deemed to have admitted the claim. The claimant may obtain judgment against the respondent. He must swear and affidavit and lodge it with the Registrar together with the request for a judgment / small claims decree. The Small Claims Registrar issues judgment under the District Court Rules, as if a Civil Summons had issued. The Registrar notifies the respondent of the decree/order.
EU Small Claims
European Union law has required States to provide a European Small Claims procedure. This will apply where the claim has a cross-border element within the EU. The proceedings must be of a civil or commercial nature. One of the parties must be domiciled or habitually resident in an EU State other than that of the Court or Tribunal. A person commencing a European small claim procedure may use it instead of a Civil Summons for debt or the ordinary small claims procedure.
The Small Claims Registrar deals with European small claims. Where suitable facilities have been established by the Courts Service or where the Court or Registrar so direct, documents may be served by e-mail. If, however, it is not apparent that the e-mail has been delivered to the intended recipient, it is treated as not having been given.
The European Small Claims procedure is commenced by lodging a completed application form with supporting documents with the appropriate Registrar, together with the fees. The documents may be lodged by registered post or, if approved by the Court or Registrar, by e-mail.
If a document is submitted to the court in a language other than English or Irish, the Registrar may, where the translation appears necessary, require the party providing it to furnish a translation. Where a party to the proceedings fails to accept the document because it is not in the official language of the member state addressed or one of them or in a language which the addressee understands, the Registrar must inform the other party and request him to provide a translation. If the translation is not made, the court may proceed, as if the document was not received.
EU Small Claims Procedure
The Registrar shall inform the claimant, if the procedure does not come within the European small claims procedure. This may be done by the same means, by which the communication itself was notified. The claimant may withdraw his claim or commence it as ordinary civil proceedings. The fee shall be refunded, if the claim is withdrawn. Where the claim exceeds €2,000, the matter should be referred to the District Court.
Where the Registrar has insufficient information, he may seek further information from the claimant. This must be returned within 21 days or such longer period as may be allowed. Where the Registrar considers the claim to be outside the procedure or unfounded, he may refer the claim to the District Court which may dismiss it or make such order as is necessary in the circumstances.
If the claim is properly made and is within the procedure, the District Court serves the claim upon the defendant by registered post, together with supporting documents and an answer form. The respondent may accept the claim and pay the amount due in full. Where the defendant fails to return the answer form within 30 days, judgment may be given in default. The claimant swears an affidavit and a court judgment issues in default.
A counterclaim may be made. The Registrar sends copies of the respondent\’s response to the claimant, by registered post or other method Similarly, where there is a counterclaim in excess of the limit, the party shall be advised that they may commence ordinary civil proceedings.
If the claim is accepted conditionally, the Registrar shall endeavour to seek agreement on the terms of a settlement. More generally, the Registrar may seek to reach settlement between the parties in all cases. Where the matter cannot be settled, the Registrar refers the proceedings to the court and notifies the place, time for hearing.
The Registrar may interview the parties and any other relevant persons. Where a settlement is reached, he records the terms in writing. The time limits laid down may be extended. If the terms of the settlement are not complied with, the Registrar may proceed to judgment against the party.
The Court may direct that further details of the claim be given. It may direct the taking of evidence. A party may request an oral hearing. The court may refuse it, if it is not necessary for the fair conduct of the proceedings. It may proceed to give judgment on the claim or any counterclaim. If no request for oral hearing is made and the court does not consider an oral hearing necessary, it may proceed to give judgment on the claim and counterclaim.
Where a judgment is given under the European Small Claims procedure, the court shall notify the party against whom the judgment is made. The defendants against whom judgment has been given, may apply to court to set it aside in the court where it is obtained. This must be served within 10 days on the date of the making of the order or its coming to the defendant\’s knowledge.
On hearing the application, it may be granted or refused. If none of the grounds of review exist, the judgment remains in force. Where the court decides the review is justified on one of the grounds in the EU Regulation, the small claims procedure judgment is set aside. Where a judgment is given in the European small claims procedure in a state other than Ireland, the party against whom enforcement is sought, may apply to court for an order refusing enforcement on the basis set out in the EU Regulations.