The Supreme Court has given judgment in Barton v Wright Hassall, rejecting the claimant’s appeal, a litigant in person, that his service of a claim form on a solicitor by email be considered good service.
The general position in civil proceedings is that for service to be effective, documents must be served by post, fax or personally on another other party unless some other method is expressly agreed.
In this case, the claimant served the claim form and supporting documents on the defendant’s solicitors by email on the last day for service. The defendant stated that service by email was not good service and in response the claimant sought an order that the service be deemed good service.
By a majority, the court rejected the claimant’s appeal making it clear it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step he is about to take. The Court recognised that sometimes a lack of representation will justify making allowances but not in respect of rules or orders of the court.
The decision is a significant step in clarifying just how far the courts are prepared to go with leniency for litigants in person and is welcome clarity.