What is litigation?
Litigation is the process of taking a case to a court or tribunal.
It often ends in a settlement (an agreement) before the final hearing. However, if a settlement can’t be reached, an independent person or a group of people (for example, a judge, referee or tribunal) hears arguments from both sides and then makes a judgment.
Unlike most alternative dispute resolution processes, in litigation the decision is made public and hearings can often be reported on (and even watched by the public). You can sometimes appeal against a judgment made through litigation, though this depends on the type of litigation, and the reason for your appeal.
Litigation can be used for a range of problems. Two examples are using the Small Claims Track for recovering costs associated with problems with goods and services (such as non-delivery or faults) and an employment tribunal for problems at work.
Litigation for small problems with goods and services
For most consumer issues, you can use the Small Claims Track. We explain how to pursue a debt in the Small Claims Court.
This is a way of dealing with small claims (for less than £5,000) through the courts.
The procedure is informal and you are normally expected to put your own case, without a solicitor. If you use a lawyer, you won’t be able to recover their costs.
Litigation for problems at work
If you have a problem at work, you could try and sort it out using ACAS conciliation or mediation.
Frequently, contracts of employment insist you complete a process of dispute resolution before you take the matter further.
If that doesn’t work, you can go to an employment tribunal. However, a tribunal can only:
- make your employer pay you compensation, or;
- recommend (but not force) your employer to give you your job back (if you have lost it).
You might be interested to read about abitration as a method of dispute resolution next.