Contract breaches form 77pc of cases in small claims courts, backlogs surge

BDSmallcourt
BDSmallcourt

Fights over contract breaches dominate filings in the small claims courts (SCCs), new data shows, even as the Judiciary faces pressure to clear a backlog of cases that risk locking billions of shillings in investor cash.

An update report by the Judiciary showed that 77 percent of cases filed in small claims courts across the country in the three years to June 2023 involved contract breaches.

“During the period, the majority of the filed (77 percent) and resolved cases (79 percent) related to Breach of Contracts,” the Judiciary notes in its 2022/23 annual report.

During the three years, 20,792 contract-breach cases were filed at the different small claims courts, followed by 6,277 personal injury cases and 92 commercial suits.

“This growth reflects the growing demand for accessible and swift dispute resolution, as well as the court’s commitment to timely adjudication of disputes,” the Judiciary says.

A small claims court is mandated to handle civil, commercial, and personal injury claims whose subject value is less than Sh1 million and make determination within 60 days.

Rulings and judgments from the small claims court can be challenged at the High Court’s different divisions depending on the subject matter. If the subject is a supply contract, for instance, the suit can be appealed at the commercial division of the High Court.

Aside from clearing the case backlog in the Judiciary, the court was intended to help with cash circulation in the economy and make Kenya more business-friendly.

The Judiciary report however shows a fresh rise in case backlogs—a development that would hurt the plans to expedite the determination of cases.

“The SCC has experienced significant growth in caseload since its inception in the financial year 2020/21. The number of filed cases has increased from 1,023 to 27,161 and the number of resolved cases has increased from 637 to 21,210 over the same period” the Judiciary said in its report.

Pending cases surged from 386 in the first year to 7,264 by the end of June last year, a more than 1,700 percent spike.

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