In this case, the defendant applied for a ruling that the claim form and particulars of claim had not been properly verified by the claimant. The claimant's name had been typed in the space allocated for her signature but the defendant’s case was that a handwritten signature was required and the claimant was in breach of the Civil Procure Rules (CPR).
It was held that the starting point was to consider CPR, r. 5.3, which provides that where any part of the CPR “…requires a document to be signed, that requirement shall be satisfied if the signature is printed by computer or other mechanical means.”
The court concluded that it would be sufficient for a party or their representative to type in their name where the signature was required. It was noted that it would be unusual to see a typed signature on a witness statement because of the importance of ensuring that the witness had read the statement and that it was a true reflection of their evidence. However, r. 5.3 made no distinction between different types of documents and it was held that, in principle, a typed signature could be used on a witness statement and any other court document which requires signing.
This was a case where the claimant had submitted their money claim online and the court stated that there had been a drive to make the online procedure as clear and accessible as possible to make the process accessible to claimants. It was noted that the signature provision under CPR, PD 7E made it clear that claimants could type their name rather than signing it by hand, and that they did not have to search through the CPR to find out whether this was acceptable.
The court concluded that it was too harsh to interpret the CPR as requiring an actual handwritten signature or for software that would enable a copy or an exact replica of the handwritten signature to be provided.
It was stated that there would have been concerns regarding non-compliance if the signature box had been left blank or if someone who had not been on court record as acting for the claimant, had signed the court documents.
The defendant’s application was dismissed and it was held that the claimant’s claim form and particulars of claim had been properly verified by them typing their name in the appropriate sections.
What this means for you
This case highlights that CPR, r. 5.3 does not require a handwritten signature or an exact replica of a person's signature on a court document. It can be seen that the court took a common sense approach because this was an online money claim, the claimant had typed their name in the applicable sections, had complied with the relevant deadlines and could verify that they had typed their name in the applicable sections.
Also, there is no specific requirement for there to be a handwritten signature so as long as the claimant can verify that they checked and typed their name in the relevant space to show that the document had been read and understood, then there should be no genuine concern by the opposing party in respect of the validity of the document.
This case would have likely been decided differently had the claim form and particulars of claim been signed by a third party who was not on court record as acting for the claimant. Also, there are cases where litigants in person do not complete the signature section on the claim form or particulars of claim and in these cases, where the forms are left blank then there will be grounds for challenging the validity of the documents and the fact that they do not comply with the CPR.