The High Court, County Court and the Magistrates Court have jurisdiction to hear civil matters in England and Wales, with the High Court dealing with the most complex and high value disputes. The County Court hears lower value debt, personal injury and contract claims as well as some technology, construction and patent cases.
Until 22 April a claimant could choose to bring their claim in the High Court providing the figure claimed for was over £25,000. However from 22 April, the threshold for bring a claim in the High Court has been raised to £100,000. The Civil Procedure Rules provide a few exceptions to the £100,000 limit:
- Personal Injury cases can be raised in the High Court providing the figure claimed for is over £50,000.
- Claims under the value of £100,000 may be brought in the High Court where statutory provisions require them to be brought in the High Court, for example, the Senior Courts Act 1981 requires Judicial Review proceedings to be brought in the High Court.
- Claims involving specialist subject areas may be brought in the Commercial Court, the Mercantile Courts, the Patent Courts or the Technology and Construction Court.
- Claims for professional negligence, fraud, or defamation and claims deemed to be in the public interest may be brought in the High Court.
The changes have been introduced as part of attempts to increase efficiencies and to reduce costs in the resolution of disputes in England and Wales, in line with the overall objectives of the Jackson Reforms.
The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, introduced on 6 February 2014, has proposed similar changes to the court system in Scotland as a result of Lord Gill's Scottish Civil Courts Review. The bill proposes that Sheriff Courts are given jurisdiction to hear cases up to the value of £150,000, a substantial increase from their current jurisdiction to hear cases with a value of up to £5,000. Similar to the position in England there are some exceptions to these limits, however by decreasing the volume of cases heard by the higher court in Scotland, the Court of Session, the Scottish Government expect that cases can be dealt with more efficiently and at a proportionate cost.
Claimants in England and Wales should take care to ensure that proceedings are raised in the appropriate court as the courts can use their discretion to transfer proceedings, with the claimant being required to meet the costs of the transfer. The courts in England also have the discretion to strike out the claim if they are satisfied that the claimant knew or ought to have known that the claim should have been raised in a different court.
To view the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2014, please click here.