A difficult time for both lawyers and clients is when a limitation period is about to expire. There may not be time to carry out a detailed investigation of the matter and in the past a fairly general claim form would be issued, which would not set out the claim in any particular detail, and service would be delayed while investigations were carried out. Following a recent case, this may now be an unwise move.

In Nomura International Plc v Grenada Group Limited [2007] EWHC 642, the Court found that issuing a claim form may amount to an abuse of process. Nomura issued a claim form because the limitation period was shortly to expire. Nomura openly accepted that, at the date of issue, it had not investigated the claim and was unable fully to plead its claim. Nomura had issued the claim at a time when it was not in a position to put any flesh on the bones of its claim. Grenada applied to strike the claim out as an abuse of process.

The Court struck the claim out. The key statement of the Court was that if the Claimant cannot set out its claim, even in a rudimentary way, then a claim form should not be issued simply in the hope that something turns up.

The moral of this story is that a Claimant should ensure that it does not issue a claim form merely because limitation is shortly to expire. It is likely that doing so will now be met with an application for strike out, and the resultant adverse costs order. An investigation must take place into the facts so that at least details of the claim can be set out in a “rudimentary way”. This will reduce the risk of a strike out. It is therefore worth spending time and money in advance of issuing a claim form, despite the fact that there may be a very pressing time limit. It is, of course, even better not to leave things to the last minute!