Barton v Wright Hassall

The recent Supreme Court decision of Barton v Wright Hassall [2018] UKSC 12 has again highlighted the importance of compliance with the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) on service and confirmed that litigants in person will not get special treatment.


The Appellant (a litigant in person) had served the Respondent's solicitors with a claim form by email at the last date before the claim form expired. Service by email is only permitted in accordance with the CPR if it is consented to by the other party. The Respondent responded after the deadline for service and stated that they did not accept service by email and that this method of service was not permitted under the CPR unless the other side had agreed to it. The Appellant then applied for an order that they had taken reasonable steps to bring the claim form to the Respondent's attention and therefore the email should count as good service. The judge concluded that while a lack of representation may result in allowances being made in case management and in conducting hearings, a lower standard of compliance with rules or orders of the court should not be granted to litigants in person. The judge concluded that there was no "good reason" to deviate from the requirements of the CPR and dismissed the appeal.


This decision was 3-2 with dissenting judges commenting that if the CPR is preventing access to justice then new rules would be welcomed. However, the requirement to strictly follow the rules rather than perhaps give effect to the spirit of the rules is consistent with the general approach taken by the court (for example Mitchell v News Group Newspapers [2013] EWCA Civ 1537). The recent case emphasises the importance of full compliance with the CPR as well as any rules or orders of the court. It is important to get service right as service can become very complicated if not done properly at the outset. Claimants can often get into difficulty if they have not followed the correct procedure or made a mistake as to when a document is deemed served. If you have any queries about this please contact Holly Ransley who will be happy to assist.