Who can be sued in a small claims court?

You can sue just about anyone using a small claims court.

Always take care to consider who you name on your small claim summons. If you get the wrong party, then the small claim may be struck out and costs ordered against you. If in doubt, seek advice from the small claims court or a Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Suing one person for a small claim

If you are suing an individual, name the individual using the most complete name that you have for that person.

Suing two or more people for a small claim

If you are suing more than one person on a claim arising from the same incident, list and serve each of them. For example, if you are suing John Doe and John Smith for the £1,000 they borrowed from you, list them as follows: 'John Doe and John Smith'. This is also required for a husband and wife. Don't list them as Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Additionally, each defendant must be served separately.

If you are suing more than one person on two small claims, you must sue each one in a separate action under the Small Claims Track.

Suing a sole trader for a small claim

If you are suing a sole trader, list the name of the owner and the name of the business. This would be as follows: 'John Doe, trading as ABC Painting'.

Make sure that you know who the true owner of the business is before you sue. A judgment against an incorrect defendant is worth very little.

Suing a firm for a small claim

If you are suing a partnership, you have a choice of either suing the individual partners or the business partnership itself.

The advantages of suing the business partnership are that:

  • service is easier and the proceedings are simpler;
  • judgment can be enforced without special permission of the judge (i.e. without leave) against partnership property;
  • judgment can be enforced without leave against the personal property of any person who was identified as a partner in the proceedings.

All business partners are individually liable for all the debts of the business, so you don't need to specify which partner you dealt with particularly.

List the business partnership as follows: 'ABC Painting, a firm' followed by the address. Try to get a judgment against more than one person so if you have trouble collecting from one you may have others to collect from.

Suing a limited company for a small claim

If you are suing a limited company, list its full name and address. A limited company is considered a person. This means that you can sue and enforce a judgment against a company. Don't sue the owners of the limited company or its managing director individually unless you have a personal claim against them that is separate from their role as part of the limited company.

Most of the time people who own or operate a limited company are not liable for its corporate debts. This is known as limited liability and is what makes forming a limited company so important.

Suing a club or association for a small claim

If you are suing a club or association, such as a football or rugby club, you must list the names of the officers of the club or association. For example, 'Deborah Brown in her capacity as Chairman of the Dowl Association of Junior Swimmers' and 'Ian Trot in his capacity as Secretary of the Dowl Association of Junior Swimmers'. You also need to obtain the home addresses of the other officers as they have to be served by the court at their home addresses. The way to obtain this information is to write to the secretary of the club asking for the names and addresses of the officers of the club or association.

Suing a child for a small claim

While anyone under 18 cannot sue by themselves (except for wages), they can be sued. If your defendant is a child (i.e. under 18), you should specify this as follows: 'James Smith, a child by [insert name of parent currently responsible for them] ... their litigation friend'.

It would be wise to check whether the parents have legal responsibility for the acts or debts of the child. If they do, they should also be named as defendants.

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Published on: June 9, 2008

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