THE DANGERS OF SERVING BY E-MAIL: A WORKING EXAMPLE
A recent post looked at potential problems with serving documents by e-mail. That this is a very real issue is shown by a report of a decision sent to me by counsel. The full details of the case are withheld. However the principal issue is clear – that service cannot take place by e-mail unless specifically agreed.
SUMMARY OF CASE
Modest personal injury case (£7,000) with a substantial credit hire element.
Claimant failed to serve signed witness statements on the Defendant in time (pre-April 2013) and an unless order (with the sanction of strike out) was made for statements to be “filed and served” by 4pm on a certain date (post April 2013)
The unsigned statements were emailed the Defendant solicitors in advance of the date.
It was not uncommon for the Claimant and Defendant solicitors to communicate regularly by email.
The signed statements were emailed to the Defendant solicitors close to 4pm on the due date.
The Defendant Solicitor never took issue at the time with service by email. (I have added this emphasis).
A week or so later notice was received from the Court that the Claim was struck out of the courts own motion – the Claimant had failed to file the statements at court!
The Claimant Solicitor was adamant that the statements had been sent to court by first class post.
At the Relief Application Defendant argued that they had never actually been served with signed statements – the Defendant solicitor did not accept service by email and that service was ineffective in line with CPR 6.20 and PD 6A para 4.1 and 4.2.
The court found as fact that the statements had never been served on the court and held that email service on the Defendant solicitor was ineffective and the case remained struck out with relief refused.
A REMINDER OF THE DANGERS OF SERVICE BY E-MAIL
A clear reminder, therefore, of the dangers of relying on service by e-mail. Unless there is express agreement to accept service by e-mail the document is not served.