The Claimants and Defendant agreed to extend the time for issuing and serving court proceedings beyond the 6 year limitation period, while the outcome of linked litigation was proceeding, culminating in proceedings needing to be issued and served by 17th July 2020. The claimants’ solicitors started the process of filing the claims electronically a day before the deadline, 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.
The original sealed claim forms remained at the claimants’ solicitors offices.
The claimants’ solicitor “served” copies of amended claim forms at a time when these had not been sealed by the court.
The defendants applied for orders that the claimants had not served the claim forms in time and that the court did not have jurisdiction.
The Court reviewed the Rules and Practice Directions relating to service of the claim form in detail and held that the service of the amended claim forms in this case did not constitute good service. In giving his judgement Mr Justice Morgan stated:
I now need to stand back and ask: is there a good reason to treat the service of an unsealed claim form as good service? My conclusion is that there is not a good reason to do so. The reason why the Claimants are in this position is the mistake made by their solicitors. That is not a good reason for making an order under rule 6.15. I consider it to be a bad reason for the suggestion that I should make such an order.”
Further the judge rejected every one of the claimants’ application for relief under rules 6.15, 6.16 and 3.10, on the basis that they did not take reasonable steps to effect service in accordance with the rules, and pointing out that the defendants would suffer prejudice is he allowed late service.
This case highlights the serious consequences of failures in respect of service of the claim form and this decision should come as a stark reminder for claimants not to leave service of the claim until the last minute.
The full judgement can be found here.