In a judgment handed down on 27 May 2016, Master Kay QC held that Rule 17.4 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) which applied where a party sought to amend his statement of case after a limitation period had expired could be used to correct the description of a party irrespective of the fact that it referred to only correcting the name of a party.

The claimant, a jeweller, made a claim under his insurance policy following the theft of several valuable items in two separate incidents: the first on 17 February 2009 and the second on 15 March 2009. Following a rejection of the claim by underwriters, the claimant issued a claim form on 16 February 2015. This was just before expiry of the limitation period according to the well-established principle that the cause of action in a claim against insurers would arise at the time when the loss against which the insured was to be indemnified actually occurred. However the claim form incorrectly named the insurance brokers and brokers’ agent as the first and second defendants and the third defendant as “Lloyd Syndicate Members”. Upon realising their mistake after the limitation period had expired, the claimant’s solicitors applied to the court to amend and re-issue the claim form such that the only defendants named were “Certain Lloyd’s Underwriters subscribing to policy number DCAL/08320”.

The order to amend the claim form was subsequently granted. However, the defendant underwriters applied to set aside the order, raising issues as to whether the CPR permitted the court to allow such an amendment. CPR Rule 17.4 states that the court may exercise its discretion to allow an amendment to correct a mistake as to the name of a party after a limitation period has expired, but only where the mistake was genuine and not one which would cause reasonable doubt as to the identity of the party in question.

Master Kay QC allowed the amendment to stand. This was a case where the defendants had been described rather than named, but r.17(4) could be used to correct the description of a party, even though it referred only to correcting the name of a party. The misdescription in the claim form was a genuine mistake and there could have been no reasonable doubt as to the identity of the party to be sued. The claim form as a whole made it clear that the parties to be sued were the syndicate members who had accepted a premium from the claimant. The exercise of discretion involved weighing all the circumstances and balancing the prejudice to each party. Here, the defendant had been aware of the claim throughout and while it had suffered some prejudice this was remedied on the condition that the claimant paid a sum into court by way of security for the defendant’s costs.