In Jones v Chichester Harbour Conservancy and others [2017] EWHC 2270 (QB), the High Court considered whether a claim form had been validly served where it had been posted during the period of its validity but the deemed date of service was out of time. Master McCloud analysed rules 6.14 and 7.5 of the Civil Procedure Rules which, respectively, detail the regime for calculating the deemed date of service and set out the appropriate steps that need to be taken for each method of service to be successfully executed.

Facts

The claimant applied for an extension of time for service of her personal injury claim, which was granted to 17 January 2017. The claim form was subsequently emailed and posted by first class post to the defendant on 17 January 2017 however as the defendant had not indicated a willingness to accept service by email, the date of deemed service of the claim form (by post) was 19 January 2017 (in line with the rule in CPR 6.14). The defendant argued that the claim form was invalid as it had been served after the expiry of the (extended) period of its validity. It relied on Brightside Group Ltd v RSM UK Audit LLP, Comm. 2017 and argued that because the order referred to an extension of time for 'service' of the claim form and not the date by which the steps set out in CPR 7.5 had to be effected, it was CPR 6.14 (the deemed service date) that needed to be taken into account by the judge.

Judgment

Master McCloud considered the decisions in BrightsideT&L Sugars Ltd v Tate & Lyle Industries Ltd Comm. [2014] and Ageas (UK) Ltd v Kwik-Fi (GB) Ltd. QB [2013]. She concluded that the deemed service provisions in CPR 6.14 should not render the service of a claim form in accordance with CPR 7.5 invalid, provided that the step in CPR 7.5 was taken during the period of validity. This departs from the decision in Brightside. Master McCloud's rationale for this was that the purpose of CPR 6.14 is to fix a date from which subsequent procedural deadlines should be calculated, for example service of particulars of claim. The Master stated that a purposive interpretation of the two rules was required in order to achieve the most sensible outcome in these instances – if the defendant's interpretation of the rules was applied, this would create a few 'dead' days at the end of a claim form's period of validity during which it would be impossible to validly serve a claim form by many of the methods in CPR 6.14 because the deemed date of service would fall after the expiry of the period of validity. The CPR aims to create certainty and such an interpretation conflicts with that aim.

Conclusion

There is now inconsistent first instance case law on the question of whether the date on which service of a claim form takes place, for the purposes of its period of validity, will be determined by reference to when the necessary step from CPR 7.5 took place, rather than the deemed date of service as worked out using CPR 6.14. In Jones Master McCloud made clear that her approach should apply not only where an extension of time has been sought, as in Jones, but also to the basic four or six month period of validity. Claimants should ensure nevertheless to take the provisions in CPR 6.14 into account to avoid any risk of having a claim struck out.