On appeal from: [2016] EWCA Civ 177

This appeal considered whether the Court of Appeal erred in upholding the judgment of the courts below that there was no good reason to validate service under the Civil Procedure Rules, CPR 6.15. It also considered whether the Court of Appeal’s reasoning breached the appellant’s ECHR, arts 6 and 13 rights, and whether the costs awarded by the Court of Appeal to the respondent were disproportionate to the work undertaken.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by a majority of three to two. The Court considered that what constitutes “good reason” for validating the non-compliant service of a claim form is essentially a matter of factual evaluation, with the main factors being : (i) whether the claimant took reasonable steps to serve in accordance with the rules; (ii) whether the defendant or his solicitor knew of the contents of the claim form when it expired; (iii) what, if any, prejudice the defendant would suffer from validation of the non-compliant service. The Court held that CPR 6.3 and Practice Direction 6A, to which the appellant did not in fact refer, are not inaccessible and obscure, and so do not justify his assumption that the solicitors would accept service by email unless they said otherwise. The Court considered that the appellant had made no attempt to carry out service in accordance with the Rules. It concluded that there was no merit in the contention that the outcome in the lower courts is incompatible with the appellant’s right to a fair trial under ECHR, art 6 as the relevant rules are sufficiently accessible and clear, and serve a legitimate purpose.

The dissenting judgment would have allowed the appeal as it considered that the appellant’s service fulfilled the purposes of ensuring that the contents of the claim form are brought to the attention of the person to be served and notifying  the recipient that the claim has been commenced against the defendant, and on a particular day. As such, the dissenting judges considered that this would provide good reason for validation unless the circumstances swing the balance against it.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 12
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (22 Nov 2017 morning session) (22 Nov 2017 afternoon session)