Whether master had erred in permitting service of claim form by an alternative method

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The claimant faxed a copy of a sealed claim form, for information purposes only, to the defendant.  There were delays in serving the claim form and eventually a consent order gave the claimant an  extension of time to serve the claim form. The claim form was then emailed to the defendant’s solicitors, who had agreed to  accept service, but not service by email. When the time to comply with the consent order expired,  the claimant (whose claim was arguably now time barred) applied to court for an order under CPR  r6.15 (which provides that the court may make an order permitting service by an alternative method where there is a good reason to do so). Such  an order was made by the Deputy Master and the defendant appealed.

John Baldwin QC has now allowed that appeal. He held that the Deputy Master had erred by failing to  take into account that the claimant had offered no explanation for failing to serve the claim form  properly. The claimant’s counsel had suggested that the only plausible explanation was a simple  mistake. The judge said that that was not good enough and also that it made no difference that the  defendant had been aware of the proceedings. The absence of prejudice to the defendant was not  usually a reason for granting an order.  In any event it could be inferred on the evidence that the  defendant would have been prejudiced if the claimant were able to pursue a claim for a huge sum of money against it.