The rules on service of claim forms and other documents will change as of 1 October 2008. Although there will be a number of changes, the main ones will be as follows:
- A clear distinction will be made between the service of a claim form within the jurisdiction and service of other documents within the United Kingdom.
- Service of the claim form will be achieved by "dispatching" it in accordance with the various methods of service provided for before 12.00 midnight on the calendar day four months after the date of issue. The claim form will no longer have to be "deemed received" by the defendant within the four-month period of validity of the claim form.
- Service of the claim form will then be deemed to take place on the second business day after dispatch, whatever method of service is used.
- Where the defendant has not given an address for service and where the claimant has reason to believe that the defendant no longer resides or carries on business at the usual or last known address, the claimant must take reasonable steps to ascertain the defendant's current address at which service can then take place. If no current address can be ascertained and there is no alternative place or method by which service can be effected, the claimant can then serve at the defendant's usual or last known address and this will be deemed to be good service. This is so despite the fact that there is reason to believe that the defendant is not resident at the address and as a consequence the claim form will not come to the defendant's attention.
- As to service of documents other than the claim form, a party to proceedings will be able to give an address for service of such documents within the United Kingdom, rather than just within the jurisdiction.
- Documents (other than the claim form) will be deemed to be served on a business day. Currently, the provisions provide for documents, including the claim form, being deemed served on a non-working day. That will no longer be the case. When serving by fax, email, personally or by delivering to a permitted address before 4.30 pm on a business day, service will be deemed to take place on that day. If after 4.30 pm, service will be deemed to take place on the next business day. Note that with a fax, the transmission has to be completed by 4.30pm. When serving by first class post or DX, service will be deemed to take place on the second day after it was posted if that day is a business day, or if not, the following business day.
Things to consider
These new rules are not retrospective. The current rules, and case law, will continue to apply to claim forms and documents served before 1 October. What "reason to believe" means in relation to service at the usual or last known address is not defined and is bound to generate the next raft of cases on service. Enquiries will have to be undertaken in shortfall cases.