CIVIL PROCEDURE BACK TO BASICS 71: TIME FOR SERVING THE PARTICULARS OF CLAIM: SERVE WITHIN THE FOUR MONTH PERIOD
In Maggistro-Contenta & Anor v O’Shea & Anor  EWHC 3035 (Ch) Chief Master Marsh stated. “The requirement in CPR 7.4(2) that particulars of claim must be served no later than the latest time for service of the claim form has been described as a trap for the unwary claimant, and in one sense it is. However, it is a provision of the CPR of which the claimants’ advisers are expected to be wary. The point has been made many times a legal adviser who leaves service of the claim form until the end of the period for service courts disaster.” Here is a quick reminder of this very basic rule.
“Particulars of claim must be served on the defendant no later than the latest time for serving a claim form.”
WHAT THE RULE SAYS
(1) Particulars of claim must –
(a) be contained in or served with the claim form; or
(b) subject to paragraph (2) be served on the defendant by the claimant within 14 days after service of the claim form.
(2) Particulars of claim must be served on the defendant no later than the latest time for serving a claim form.
SO PARTICULARS OF CLAIM MUST BE SERVED WITHIN THE FOUR MONTH PERIOD AFTER ISSUE
The common mistake is assuming that a claimant always has 14 days after service of the claim form. They do not. Service must take place within the four month period after service.
MASTER MARSH’S JUDGMENT
In the Maggistro-Contenta case Master Marsh went on to say.
“Furthermore, CPR 7.4(2) is not a provision that is in any sense by design a trap. On the contrary, its purpose is clear. A defendant is entitled to know by the expiry of the period for service, by having received the claim form and particulars of claim, the full extent of the claim that is being pursued by the claimant. If there are genuine difficulties in effecting service or the claimant is unable to formulate the claim in detail due to a delay in receiving papers from the defendant, an application to extend time for service can be made.”
(It is prudent for such an extension to be made prospectively and not retrospectively).
DOES THIS MATTER?
It mattered in the Maggistro-Contenta case. The claimant served late, wrongly assuming they had 14 days after service of the claim form. They required relief from sanctions and, for reasons explained here, that application was refused.