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Court Rules apply to LIPs - Supreme Court decision

Court Rules apply to LIPs - Supreme Court decision

Postby atticus » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:23 am

in Barton v Wright Hassall the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no special dispensation in relation to compliance with court rules to a litigant in person. The Justices divided 3-2 on the question.

Lord Sumption summarises the situation in para 1:
The appellant, a litigant in person, purported to serve the claim form in these proceedings on the defendant’s solicitors by email, without obtaining any prior
indication that they were prepared to accept service by that means. It is common ground that this was not good service. As a result, the claim form expired unserved on the following day. The question at issue on this appeal is whether the Court should exercise its power retrospectively to validate service. To date, the District Judge, the County Court judge and the Court of Appeal have declined to do so. If their order stands, the result will be that Mr Barton can proceed with his claim only by a fresh action. The present appeal has been conducted on the assumption that such an action would be statute-barred.


The meat of the decision is in para 19:
Mr Barton contends that CPR rule 6.3 and Practice Direction 6A are inaccessible and obscure. I do not accept this. They are accessible on the internet. Part 6 is clearly headed “Service of Documents”. Electronic service under rule 6.3 is expressly required to be in accordance with Practice Direction 6A, which is
prominently flagged in the table of contents. Furthermore, when the claim form was issued, the Courts Service sent Mr Barton in the usual way on 26 February 2013 a blank certificate of service for him to complete when he had served it. This included the statement: “Rules relating to the service of documents are contained in Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules (www.justice.gov.uk) and you should refer to the rules for information.” Since he did not in fact refer to them, their alleged obscurity is perhaps immaterial. But they are not in my view obscure.


Another lesson is this: do not leave service of a claim form to the last possible day, particularly when the limitation period has expired. This allows no room for error, and defendants and courts will show no mercy.
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Re: Court Rules apply to LIPs - Supreme Court decision

Postby atticus » Wed Feb 21, 2018 12:47 pm

I should also add this, at the end of paragraph 18:
The rules provide a framework within which to balance the interest of both sides. That balance is inevitably disturbed if an unrepresented litigant is
entitled to greater indulgence in complying with them than his represented opponent. Any advantage enjoyed by a litigant in person imposes a corresponding disadvantage on the other side, which may be significant if it affects the latter’s legal rights, under the Limitation Acts for example. Unless the rules and practice directions are particularly inaccessible or obscure, it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step which he is about to take.
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