The first port of call (and usually, though not always, the only port of call) to find out what issues are in dispute in a case is the pleadings otherwise known as statements of case. Exactly what these look like will depend on the court or tribunal concerned.
Pleadings for a case in a court governed by the Civil Procedure Rules have various names.The person bringing the claim (the “claimant”) sets out in a document known as Particulars of Claim, accompanying the Claim Form, the basic facts that they allege and what they claim is the legal consequence of those alleged basic facts. In response the person or persons claimed against (the “defendant” or “defendants”) sets out in a document known as a Defence what their response is, which alleged facts they admit to be true, which they deny, which they do not positively deny but require to be proved (e.g. alleged facts which are outside their knowledge) other relevant facts they rely on, and what they claim is the legal consequence of the facts as they believe them to be. There can be further pleadings, for example a Reply to Defence, a Defence and Counterclaim, a Reply and Defence to Counterclaim, or a Reply to Request for Further Information, but by the end of the process of sending pleadings, the issues in dispute should have been clarified and defined.
In tribunals there are documents which serve the same purpose but these are often entitled simply "Applicant's Statement of Case" or "Respondent's Statement of Case"
You will need to read all the pleadings, carefully, so that you understand what issues are in dispute. If one party makes an assertion – e.g. “the agreed price for the work was £30,000" – you may find in the pleadings of other parties in the case that all parties admit this to be true – e.g. “it is admitted that the agreed price was £30,000".
You will find that some assertions are disputed. For example if one party says in their pleadings: -
“A completion date of 1st November was agreed and we shook hands on it”
another party might say
“It is denied that a completion date of 1st November was agreed. No specific completion date was agreed.”
or that party might say
“It is not admitted that a completion date of 1st November was agreed. The Defendant cannot remember what was agreed regarding a completion date."
Whether something is “denied” or simply “not admitted”, in both cases it is counted as being in dispute.
Generally you should find from the pleadings that most allegations are either “admitted”, “not admitted” or “denied” but sometimes, for example if the facts are more complex, you may find that an allegation is answered by another party in a narrative way without using the words “admitted”, “not admitted” or “denied” e.g.:-
“When the parties shook hands a completion date of 1st November was understood, but a few days later the Claimant phoned and asked if the Defendant could also fit, as part of the work, a new bath and toilet in the bathroom. The Defendant quoted an increased price of £33,000 and the Claimant agreed. No completion date was agreed in this conversation."
In this case you can see that there is a dispute even though the words “admitted”, “not admitted” or “denied” are not used.
Sometimes an allegation is made in a party's pleadings and not answered at all by the other party, or parties, in their pleadings. If this happens the allegation is normally taken to be in dispute - not admitted.
If there are more than two parties in the case, an allegation made by party A might be admitted by party B but not admitted by party C. However an allegation is regarded as in dispute if any party disputes (or does not admit) it.
Here is another example:-
If one party says in their pleading
“a fence enclosing the disputed land was first erected by the Applicant in 2010”
another party might say
“it is denied that a fence enclosing the disputed land was first erected by the Applicant in 2010”
or that party might say
“It is not admitted that a fence enclosing the disputed land was first erected by the Applicant in 2010”
Whether something is “denied” or simply “not admitted”, in both cases it is in dispute and documents probative of that issue – such as an invoice from a fencing company or photographs taken before, after (and during) the erection of the fence, would be relevant.
Generally you should find from the pleading that most allegations are either “admitted”, “not admitted” or “denied” but sometimes, for example if the allegation is in some respects ambiguous, you may find that it is answered by another party in a narrative way without the words “admitted”, “not admitted” or “denied” being used. e.g.:
“The Applicant erected some fencing in 2010 enclosing the disputed land. This was the first fencing erected by the Applicant but it replaced an existing fence which had been erected by the Respondent in about 1999.”
This page was lasted updated in November 2016. Disclaimer
The above explanation of the law as it relates to disclosure of documents is only an overview and in order to be reasonably concise I have had to leave some details out - details which are likely to affect what the law would say about your own situation. So please do not rely on the above but contact me for advice.