When a party seeks to issue a claim he is required to comply with numerous rules. If no specific Pre Action Protocol applies then he must serve a letter of claim in accordance with the Pre Action Protocol Practice Direction. He should serve on the Defendant any documents which are central to his case. For example, in a claim based upon a contract he should provide the contract at the pre action stage for starters.
If a claim is issued, then the Claimant will have a duty to provide a copy of the documents mentioned in his claim form per CPR rule 31.14 for example. If the Defendant asks for a copy in accordance with Rule 31.14 then the Claimant should provide a copy within 7 days.
In Expandable v Rubin :  EWCA Civ 59 Rix LJ said at Para 24
The general ethos of the CPR is for a more cards on the table approach to litigation. If a party thinks it worthwhile to mention a document in his pleadings, witness statements or affidavits, I do not see why, subject as I say to the question of privilege, the court should put difficulties in the way of inspection. I look upon the mention of a document in pleadings etc as a form of disclosure. The document in question has not been disclosed by list, or at any rate not yet, but it has been disclosed by mention in what, for the purposes of litigation, is another important and formal category of documents. If so, then the party deploying that document by its mention should in principle be prepared to be required to permit its inspection, and the other party should be entitled to its inspection
The above quote is clear that if you mention a document in your claim form you must be prepared to provide a copy on request.
Rule 31.15 also is quite clear that such a request for a document under CPR Rule 31.14(1) must be complied with within 7 days. So if you have a claim issued against you and the Claim is based on a written contract, and the Claimant mentions such a contract in his claim form, then you should be entitled to a copy of it as long as you are prepared to pay reasonable copying costs.
So, what if the Claimant issues a claim and doesn’t provide you with documents pre action, doesn’t give you documents mentioned in the Claim form and just tells you to lodge a Defence.??????
Well you could lodge a Defence pleading you’re embarrassed by the claim, couldn’t you? Well some people may say yes, some will say no. There probably is no right or wrong answer to this, but it is difficult to see how you can plead to a claim based on a written document, especially a Consumer Credit Agreement Regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974, without having a copy of the contract from the Claimant.
Over the course of this week, two applications came before the County Courts (different locations) where two different Judges came to the same views.
A Claimant issued a claim, along the lines of the above facts, and failed repeatedly to allow inspection of the documents mentioned in the Claim form. So an application was lodged with the Courts relying on Rule 31.14 and 31.15 and of course Mitchell v NGN.
The District Judges made short work of the Claimants arguments. Firstly , on the first application the Judge commented that she was shocked that the Claimant had issued a claim taking no regard for the rules, she also considered that the Claimant faced difficulty in satisfying the Court that it had an honestly held belief in its pleaded case, and therefore questioned how it could sign a statement of truth that the Defendant breached his contract when they had never even seen the contract and couldnt even confirm on the day of the hearing that the signed contract even existed without seeing it, she said the breach of 31.14 was not trivial ala Mitchell, it was in fact a fundamental failing citing the Expandable v Rubin case and that the appropriate order could be nothing less than an unless order with a strike out sanction for non compliance, and costs on the indemnity basis.
The second District Judge took the same view, however, this judge on submissions from Counsel decided the breaches were so serious the only order suitable was a strike out and duly struck out the opponents. Again with costs.
It seems the Courts are taking a hard line with Claimants who issue claims with little or no documentation. While many of my colleagues are unhappy with the Mitchell ruling, it is useful in balancing things out with the cases which i deal with thats for sure.