Service of a claim form and the meaning of “last known address”

One of the issues in this case was whether the claimant had served the claim form at the defendant’s “last known address” (unless personal service was effected, the correct place for service of the claim form on the defendant, as an individual, was his “usual or last known residence”: CPR 6.9(2)). Although CPR 6.9(3) requires a claimant who has reason to believe that a defendant’s last known residence is not an address at which he any longer resides to take reasonable steps to ascertain his current residence, the claimant submitted that this provision did not apply in   the present case because the claimant did not have reason to believe that the relevant address had ceased to be the defendant’s residence.

Richards J pointed out that as the claimant had put an alternative address in the claim form, that indicated that there had been doubt or concern as to where the defendant should be served. In addition to this, “simple enquiries made by a solicitor on his computer, such as a search on the Companies House website or on one of the easily accessible commercial websites for tracking addresses, would immediately have disclosed the current residential address of the first defendant in London”.

The judge said that these two factors together meant that the claimant had not taken all reasonable steps to comply with the service provisions (this had to be shown here because the extension was being sought after the relevant time limit had expired) and so was not entitled to an extension of time.

COMMENT: The fact that the judge regarded both factors, when taken together, as establishing that the claimant had not been entitled to assert the address where the claim form was served was the “last known address” begs the question whether each factor on its own would have allowed him to reach the same conclusion. There has been some debate in earlier caselaw as to what steps a claimant should take in order to establish if an address is a “last known address”. For example, in In Broadside Colours & Chemicals, Re (see Weekly Update 07/12) the judge held that the applicant was entitled to rely on a search carried out at Companies House which had revealed the address of a director (albeit, supplied more than 6 years earlier). The applicant had no reason to believe that the director was no longer at that address and so did not need to carry out any further enquiries. That decision was not discussed in this case, but it lends support to the view that only if there is evidence that a claimant did suspect the given address was not the last known address will further enquiries by necessitated.