How we won our County Court Claim for an Entertainment Agency

CASE STUDY

An Entertainment Agency (our client) asked us to collect a debt owed by a partnership business operating as a Bar and Grill in May 2017 using our debt collection process. The debtor who had booked entertainment was paying the “agent” in full rather than paying the performers on the nights. Known in the industry as a no pick up (NPU).

The owners of the bar and grill couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the agent after the performance dates, one in January the second in February. There was no dispute raised about the performances or the invoices themselves. Promises of payment were made but never materialised. The debtor started to avoid calls, letters and emails requesting payment. The agent was obliged to pay the performers and so was out of pocket twofold.

The Debt

The debt was over 100 days old when Franklin James Credit Management were instructed to initiate our debt collection service. A Letter Before Proceedings was sent to the debtor business address and the last known confirmed address of the debtors. We used credit and consumer reporting to confirm the residential address. We also emailed the debtor the relevant paperwork.

Seven days were given to make payment or court action would be submitted. Prior to the court submission deadline date calls and emails were made and sent, the debtor said they didn’t owe the debt and said his wife’s Limited company had booked the entertainment and gave me the name of the company. In fact, the company he gave was in fact dissolved and had been before the date of the entertainment booking. I pointed out to the debtors that they had acted illegally by placing an order in the name of a dissolved company and we would be reporting the matter to Companies House. The debtors soon retracted this statement and acknowledged the debt asking for time to pay. They never paid even after many communications and the offer of a payment plan.

Legal Proceedings

A claim was eventually submitted using the Money Claim Online facility (MCOL) the agent (claimant) was required to pay a court fee of £105.00. Five days are allowed under civil proceedings rules for service of documents to the defendant and a further statutory two and a half weeks passed before we could request judgment against both partners. In between these dates no admission, defence or counterclaim was filed in court by either partner and absolutely no contact was made by the defendant. During this time, it came to our attention that the defendants had moved address so when judgment was requested we submitted the new address.

Once the defendants were made aware of the judgment they called our office and argued the fact that they hadn’t received the claim and they were asking for the judgment to be set aside and that in fact he wasn’t responsible for the debt as he was just an employee and relayed that his wife was solely responsible for the debt.

Court

I attended court in Southampton on behalf of our customer (the claimant). In chambers the only defendant to turn up was the one who said he was an employee and not the business owner. I had taken all the relevant paperwork in relation to the debt, email chains, letters including the Notice Before Action and any notes. The defendant was asked to give his account of why he thinks the judgment should be set aside. The bullet points of his response are:

  • They didn’t receive the paperwork from the court.
  • He wasn’t responsible for the debt being an employee.

The judge asked to see my bundle pf paperwork and sat patiently going through it. He asked me some questions and then the defendant. The defendant was a bit upset as he hadn’t prepared for the full case to be heard. The defendant thought that the hearing was only to set aside both judgments as he hadn’t received the paperwork. He also pointed out to the judge that his partner/wife wasn’t in attendance so couldn’t defend herself. The judge didn’t take this lightly and replied saying that the judgments are against both partners and, so he could only deal with the judgment of the person in attendance.

Outcome

The judge ordered that the 1st defendant to draft a witness statement. This was to state what his actual position was within the structure of the company showing that he was in fact an employee and not a partner in the business. He gave the defendant a fixed date to supply the information by. Which he did, and the judgment was duly set aside.

In relation to the defendants saying they hadn’t received the court papers – the judge said this wasn’t a good reason to set aside the judgment against the 2nd defendant as the court can send the papers to your usual or last known address even if you have moved. He also said that he didn’t think there was a real chance of there being a successful defence to the claim, given the fact that they had acknowledged and agreed to pay the debt as noted in the emails between the 1st defendant and Franklin James Credit Management.

The judgment against the 2nd defendant was successful in not being set aside and she was ordered to pay the debt in her absence.

The debt was paid in four instalments and all were made directly from the 1st defendants personal bank account or from his newly formed limited company account trading at the same address as the partnership business.

That is how we won our County Court Claim!

Further Reading > Late Payment Horror Stories