Court considers what a claimant must do to effect service where date for service extended to a particular date

CPR r7.5 provides that "Where the claim form is served within the jurisdiction, the claimant must complete the step required by the following table in relation to the particular method of service chosen, before 12.00 midnight on the calendar day four months after the date of issue of the claim form". CPR r6.14 provides that "A claim form served within the United Kingdom in accordance with this Part is deemed to be served on the second business day after completion of the relevant step under rule 7.5(1)".

Difficulties can arise where an order or notice provides that the claim form has to be served by a particular date. Does that mean that the step referred to in CPR r7.5 must be taken on or before that date, or that deemed service under CPR r6.14 must take place on or before that date?

In Brightside v RSM [2017] the defendant served a notice (under CPR r7.7) on the claimant calling for service of the claim form by 10th June. The judge held that service in that case took place two business days after the claim form was hand delivered (ie service for the purpose of complying with the notice was governed by CPR r6.14).

In this case, the claimant was granted an order extending the date for service of the claim form "to 17th January 2017". Master McCloud held that the claimant in this case only had to complete the relevant step required by rule 7.5 by midnight on 17th January. The relevance of the "deemed" date of service rules in CPR r6.14 is for such matters as calculating the time for taking subsequent steps.

In reaching this decision, Master McCloud said that Brightside is authority for the proposition "with the exception of the question whether a claim form was served while still valid under the 4 or 6 month period of validity (if need be, extended by court order), the deemed date provisions of rule 6.14 operate in all other cases so as to determine the date of service". Here, the issue was whether the claim form was being served within its period of validity and "To re-introduce the snare of the 'deemed date of service' provisions … by creating a 'dead' period at the end of the validity of the claim form would be counter to the purpose of the amended rules".

COMMENT: Although Master McCloud suggests that Brightside is confined, essentially, to CPR r7.7 cases, there is nothing in that judgment to suggest that the judge in that case was confining his decision in that way. Instead, he said that there are two questions: (i)what must the claimant do to effect service, and (ii) when do the CPR say that service takes place. He rejected an argument that 6.14 only serves to fix the date for subsequent deadlines. Instead, he said it serves to "fix the date on which service of a document is taken to have occurred for the purpose of assessing compliance with any deadline for achieving that service….Put more shortly, CPR 6.14 fixes the date on which service of a claim form occurs, for all, not only for some, CPR purposes". Accordingly, it would seem that there are now two potentially conflicting High Court decisions on this point. Until the issue is resolved at Court of Appeal level, it is suggested that the safest course would be for claimants to follow Brightside and allow time for deemed service to take place on or before the deadline which must be met.