In this blog we consider the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Barton v Wright Hassall LLP  UKSC 12. In this case the Supreme Court dismissed a Claimant’s appeal on the basis that he had failed to validly serve his claim form on the Defendant’s solicitors.
The Claimant, representing himself (as a litigant in person), sought to bring a claim against his former legal representatives (the Defendant) in a claim for professional negligence. The Defendant instructed solicitors to defend the claim against them.
On the day before the limitation period expired on his claim, the Claimant served his claim form on the Defendant’s solicitors by email, this was without any confirmation that the Defendant’s solicitors would accept service by email.
The Defendant’s solicitors responded to him approximately two weeks later, advising that they did not accept service of claims via email and that his service of the claim was not accepted. Therefore, in the absence of valid service and because of the limitation period having expired, the claim was time barred.
The Claimant sought to rely on the basis that his previous dealings with the Defendant’s solicitors, prior to service of the claim form, had been via email. In the alternative, the Claimant sought an extension of the validity of the claim form, or pursuant to CPR 6.15, an order that the service by email be validated.
By a majority of three to two, the Supreme Court held that emailing the claim form in the absence of an agreement from a defendant to accept service by that method was not valid service, nor would it be subsequently validated by the Court.
Lord Sumption stated that litigants in person are not a special category and should not be treated as such in relation to the application of the civil procedure rules.
Always check the correct method of service and ensure that if you are serving a defendant by email, that the defendant is willing to accept service of proceedings via email or your method of service claim could be deemed to be invalid. This is especially relevant if proceedings are served just prior to limitation expiring, as you may lose the opportunity to correct the service of the claim form and as in the above case, the claim would be deemed time barred.
Remember, if you are acting for yourself, there are no special rules to assist you and if you get the service wrong, you may lose the opportunity to pursue your claim, especially if you are up against the limitation clock. It is always best to seek legal advice prior to pursing a claim.
Jordans Solicitors have an experienced professional negligence department that can advise if you are considering pursing a professional negligence claim. Click the link below for more details.