The case of Dzekova v Thomas Eggar LLP emphasises the importance of checking the address for service of Court proceedings is compliant with rule 6.8 of the Civil Procedure Rules. Whilst fact specific it tells a cautionary tale.
The matter was rather ironically a professional negligence claim brought against a firm of solicitors for alleged negligence in the handling of a personal injury claim for compensation arising from an accident. The case was decided by Mr Justice Stewart on appeal by the alleged negligent firm against the Master’s refusal to set aside service of the claim form and strike the claim out.
In brief, the claimant’s legal representative very shortly before the expiry of the period in which proceedings had to be served, telephoned the defendant firm to seek confirmation of the correct address for service of Court proceedings as the firm had more than one address. The claimant spoke with the managing partner’s assistant who provided the address of the managing partner.
Following the purported service of the proceedings, the defendant firm applied to have the claim form set aside for lack of proper service. The firm argued that the address given was not an appropriate address for service in accordance with CPR Part 6.8 which states:
Subject to rules 6.5(1) and 6.7 and the provisions of Section IV of this Part, and except where any other rule or practice direction makes different provision-
(a) the defendant may be served with the claim form at an address at which the defendant resides or carries on business within the UK or any other EEA state and which the defendant has given for the purpose of being served with the proceedings; or
The claimant’s solicitor’s evidence was that he had during the telephone conversation specifically asked for an address for service and that it was the firm’s principal place of business. However the managing partner’s assistant gave evidence to state that she did not know what was meant by a principal place of business and neither did she understand the significance of serving proceedings. It was only when she was informed that the documents were confidential did she give the managing partner’s address. Notwithstanding this evidence, the Master held that the assistant had the necessary authority to give out the address and refused the application to set the claim form aside.
On appeal the issues were whether the address given fell within CPR 6.8 and whether the assistant had the authority to bind the firm. On appeal Mr Justice Stewart held that the assistant had neither given an appropriate address for the service of Court proceedings and nor did she have the proper authority to bind the firm. Her attempt at helpfulness could not be taken to mean that she had authority to bind the firm. The appeal was allowed, service was were set aside and the claim struck out.
This for the claimant means another professional negligence claim against another firm of solicitors for failing to understand the importance of ensuring the correct address is provided for the service of proceedings. Some cautionary tales can be learned:
- Do not leave service of proceedings to the last minute
- Ensure you know the rules on service of proceedings
- Ensure you have written information on the file on the correct address for service of court proceedings from an authorised representative of the defendant.
Whilst for many it may be a matter of good practice to ensure the address given complies with CPR Part 6.8, a case such as this makes it worthwhile to re-emphasises the importance of resolving service issues in good time.