Author
Edward Spencer

Edward Spencer

Senior associate

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Author
Edward Spencer

Edward Spencer

Senior associate

Read More

26 May 2020

Disputes quick read – 1 of 18 Insights

Disputes Quick Read: The importance of proper service

  • QUICK READ

Correctly serving a claim form is a crucial step in commencing litigation. It marks the point at which a defendant is on notice that they will need to defend a claim and begins the litigation clock. Failure to serve the document in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR 6.3) can cause significant issues for a claimant. Post, personal service and fax are the classic examples – but what about alternate methods, including novel electronic means?

The Civil Procedure Rules do allow the court to make an order permitting service by alternative methods (CPR 6.15) in situations where service under the existing rules is not possible. Alternative methods successfully used to date have included WhatsApp, a website's contact form and Facebook's Messenger platform. What constitutes good alternative service can also include "steps already taken to bring the claim form to the attention of the defendant". 

However, it is vital to note that – while these alternative methods are available – in order to be successful and considered "good service", they require the permission of the court by way of an order under CPR 6.15.

In Canada Goose UK Retail Ltd and another v Persons Unknown and another, the clothing retailer Canada Goose failed in its bid for a final injunction against a fluctuating group of protesters whose identities and addresses were unknown, on one basis because they had failed to obtain an order for alternative service. In that case, it was at the physical premises subject to the protests or on social media platforms used by the protesters. Such an order would likely have been available to the claimant but had not been sought.

The case serves as a useful reminder that in times where ordinary service is difficult if a claimant wished to use a novel method of service – including a new technology – it must follow the procedure in accordance with the CPR in relation to service by alternate means.

In this series

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Disputes quick read: climate change activism by litigation

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Disputes quick read: pilot error?

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