In a first for the Supreme Court, a litigant in person has asked the court to consider whether the Civil Procedure Rules ("CPR") need amending in order to make them easier for individuals without legal representation to navigate.
The Claimant, a litigant in person at the start of the claim, lodged an appeal against his former solicitors in a claim for professional negligence. The Claimant had served his claim form and particulars of claim by email, without confirmation from his solicitors that this method of service would be accepted. After the limitation period had passed, the Defendants informed the claimant his method of service was invalid.
The Court of Appeal upheld the first instance decision and found there was no good reason to validate the service. The Claimant appealed to the Supreme Court arguing the CPR are complex and he is ill-equipped to understand the myriad of options and legal jargon.
A ruling in favour of the Claimant would lead to uncertainty for insurers if special dispensation was granted for litigants in person. Clear and definite rules need to be in place which litigants in person would be able to understand, but also provide protection and clarity for insurers.
If the Civil Liability Bill is enacted, it is probable Claims Management Companies ("CMCs") and Mckenzie friends will operate in place of current claimant firms, or claimant firms may offer unbundled services. A hybrid system may unfairly prejudice insurers, given an unrepresented individual could have the benefit of solicitors' advice, but may still be considered a litigant in person and thus benefit from the simplified and presumably less onerous rules.
The case was heard on 22nd November 2017 and the judgment is awaited.