CIVIL PROCEDURE BACK TO BASICS 65: THAT NIGHTMARE SCENARIO WHERE THE COURT HAS ISSUED THE CLAIM FORM BUT YOU CAN’T SERVE IT

Here I want to isolate one aspect of the judgment in AAA -v- Rakoff [2019] EWHC 2525 (QB) that was easy to miss amidst all the features of that case.  The fact that the court can issue proceedings and hold onto the claim form if the claimant’s address is not given.  If this point as to the date of issue is missed it could cause a claimant considerable difficulties.

 

PRACTICE DIRECTION 16

The Practice Direction imposes an obligation on a claimant to give an address in the claim form.

2.2  The claim form must include an address at which the claimant resides or carries on business. This paragraph applies even though the claimant’s address for service is the business address of his solicitor.

HOWEVER IF AN ADDRESS IS NOT GIVEN: THE COURT ISSUES PROCEEDINGS BUT KEEPS THE CLAIM FORM

2.5  If the claim form does not show a full address, including postcode, at which the claimant(s) and defendant(s) reside or carry on business, the claim form will be issued but will be retained by the court and will not be served until the claimant has supplied a full address, including postcode, or the court has dispensed with the requirement to do so. The court will notify the claimant.

WHAT HAPPENED IN AAA

This is precisely what happened in AAA and caused the claimants some difficulties.

19. An unsealed copy of the Claim Form was provided to the Court at the hearing on 11 July  2019. It was accompanied by Particulars of Claim dated 3 July 2019. It emerged at the hearing on 30 July 2019 that the Claimants had not been able to obtain a sealed copy of the Claim Form. CPR 16.2 and Part 16 PD §§2.2 and 2.6 require the address and name of each Claimant to be stated in the Claim Form. Paragraph 2.5 of the Practice Direction provides that if the Claim Form does not show a full address, including postcode, “the Claim Form will be issued but will be retained by the court and will not be served until the claimant has supplied a full address, including postcode, or the court has dispensed with the requirement to do so.”
20. This unsatisfactory state of affairs has arisen because the Claimants failed to make an application for anonymity of the First to Ninth Claimants (and the corresponding permission to issue the Claim Form without having to include the names of the Claimant) before seeking to issue the Claim Form. Such applications are routinely made to the Practice Masters in the Queen’s Bench Division. Although the belated anonymity application seeks to regularise this position, currently none of the Defendants has been served with a Claim Form, although they have been provided with an unsealed copy.

THIS DOES NOT EXTEND THE FOUR MONTH PERIOD FOR SERVICE

All the while the claim form sits in the court office it is issued but not served.  The four month period for service is not extended.  The court tells the claimant that proceedings have been issued, but the court is waiting for an address.

This means:

  • Proceedings cannot be served.
  • The four month period could lapse.

In the AAA case the claimants issued (but the court kept the claim form) and then sought an injunction.  That injunction was heard on the 11th July.  The judge adjourned the matter to the 30th September.   During that time the claimants (apparently) took no steps to provide the address and the claim form was not served.  It is not clear when proceedings were issued. However it is clear that a considerable part of the four month period for service was eaten into at a time when the claim forms simply sat in court.   Any undue delay could lead to the proceedings not being served at all.  A court may not be altogether sympathetic to any retrospective application for an extension of time for service, particularly given the stringent terms of CPR 7.6.