In this case, Akhtar v Boland  EWCA Civ 872, the Court of Appeal adjudicated upon an appeal from his Honour Judge Platts who dismissed an appeal against an order of District Judge Fox refusing to re-allocate a claim to the fast track from the non-costs bearing small claims track.
The nature and tone of the appeal is summed up in paragraph 3 of the Judgment:
“Although nominally an appeal between two individuals, in fact this appeal is fought between a credit hire company or credit hire companies on the part of the Claimant and a motor insurance company or motor insurance companies on the part of the Defendant. It raises issues as to the correct track to which claims should be assigned that are of wide general importance. The essential question is what is meant by “the financial value …. of the claim” in CPR 26.8(1)(a) and “any amount not in dispute” in CPR 26.8(2)(a).”
Paragraph 4 is perhaps more enlightening:
“Evidently, it is in the interests of a credit hire company to maximise the financial value of a claim for damages following a road traffic incident, so as to justify the instruction of lawyers and to recover the costs of doing so, and in the interests of insurers to minimise the financial value of the claim below the limit for the small claims track, so that the Claimant cannot recover any legal costs of his representation”.
Paragraphs 6 – 12 detail the parties’ respective positions but essentially the case concerned the validity of a Defence proffering tactical partial admissions with a view to lessening the sums in dispute in order to have the matter allocated to the small claims track.
In order to assess the financial value of the claim the court is required to disregard any amount not in dispute (CPR 26.8(2)(a)). District Judge Fox held that the Defence included an unqualified admission that the Claimant was entitled to the sum of £2,496.00. He therefore entered Judgment for that sum. This left the sum in dispute at less than £5,000.00 and the matter was therefore allocated to the small claims track.
In a 3 line, 1 paragraph Judgment, Sir Stanley Burnton dismissed the appeal and held that District Judge Fox was entitled to allocate the claim to the small claims track since the sum remaining in dispute was less than £5,000.00.
Therefore, it would appear that it is open to a Defendant insurer to make partial admissions giving rise to a Judgment with the balance of the claim being defended on the small claims tack.