In Ideal Shopping Direct Ltd & Ors v Visa Europe Ltd v Ors, Mr Justice Morgan ruled that the unsealed forms served on the last day permitted were not claim forms and therefore serving them was not good service. As a result, the claims were deemed out of time.
An application for relief from sanction made by the claimants solicitors was also rejected with the judge holding that reasonable steps were not taken by the claimant to effect service in accordance with the rules, and if granted the defendants would suffer prejudice.
The background of these cases was that it had been agreed between the Claimants and Defendants to extend the time for issuing and serving these claims beyond the 6 year limitation period, whilst the outcome of earlier litigation which was linked to the claims was proceeding. Extensions were agreed a number of times, but following the conclusion of the earlier litigation in June 2020 the claims needed to be issued and served by the 17th July 2020.
The claimants solicitors started the process of filing the claims electronically a day before the deadline, expecting the claim forms to be sealed and returned within a couple of hours, but when they had not been received by 3pm on the next day, the 17th July deadline, a decision was made to serve the unsealed claim forms and accompanying documents. Solicitors for Visa and MasterCard took the point that the sending of the unsealed amended claim forms did not constitute good service. Sealed forms were served within nine days of the deadline.
The judge in his ruling ultimately concluded that there was no good reason to treat the service of an unsealed claim form as good service The Judge ruled that the reason why the claimants were in such a position was due to a mistake made by their solicitors.
This case highlights the importance of getting documents to the Court in plenty of time, especially in the current circumstances where Courts may take longer than expected to deal with matters.
It is crucial where a claimant issues the claim at the end of the limitation period that it is served correctly within time. Many a claim has been lost due to defective service of the claim form and a failure to comply with the rules is not a “good reason” for the court to grant relief under CPR 6.15.
This decision illustrates how hard it is for claimants to get relief under these rules.
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