In the recently released judgment of DB UK Bank Ltd v. Sinclair Solicitors Ltd [2015] EWHC B29 (Ch), the High Court has provided an important warning to litigants when considering taking an overly technical position in response to an opponent's deadline for service of the claim form and the particulars of claim.

Background

A claim form was issued by the claimant on 6 March 2015, but then a consent order was agreed between the parties, which stated that "the claimant be granted an extension of time for service of the claim form and particulars of claim of two months to 7 September 2015". In accordance with the order, the claimant sent the claim form and particulars of claim to the defendant by fax (timed at 16.03 hours) and by DX on Friday 4 September 2015.

The defendant made an application seeking a declaration that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the claim as it argued that reference to extending time in the order meant "deemed service" and that, by 7 September 2015, the claim form and particulars of claim were despatched too late.

Judgment

Master Matthews firmly rejected the defendant's application as he considered that the consent order extended the period for compliance with CPR 7.5, which only required the claim form to be despatched in time. The claimant had complied with this deadline. The fact that the claim form would not be deemed to be served under CPR 6.14 until two days later was irrelevant in considering whether the claimant had validly effected service.

It was clear to Master Matthews that the parties were extending the period for compliance in accordance with CPR 7.5, and they used the words in the terms of the order "an extension of time for service of the claim form" to mean exactly that.

As the defendant had the documents by 7 September 2015 and knew what they contained, Master Matthews found that it was only a technical argument based on the effect of CPR 6.14 which gave the defendant any cause to complain. As this technicality had no discernible affect on the proceedings and no prejudice had been caused, the application was refused.

Commentary

The main point to be taken from this case is that parties to litigation should be wary of taking technical points in circumstances where they have not been prejudiced and where a challenge in itself could cause a delay in proceedings. The court made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the defendant had been wrong to make its application and, in doing so, had caused delay to the proper running of the case.