The recent Supreme Court decision in Barton v Wright Hassall LLP focuses on litigants in person and compliance with the Civil Procedure Rules.
The CPR apply to all civil cases in the Courts of England and Wales. They were created to make the system quicker, simpler and less hostile.
Mr Barton began a claim against his former solicitors, Wright Hassall LLP. He served his claim form and particulars of claim via email rather than first class post. He was unaware that service via email was not compliant with the CPR. He also did not know that he should have sought consent to serve via email or made an application to Court. As such his actions were contrary to CPR 6.15 and his claim was struck out.
The Supreme Court considered whether a court should be able to take into consideration that a claimant, acting without legal advice or representation, had not complied exactly with the CPR.
The decision by the Supreme Court was a majority decision (3-2) in favour of strict compliance with the CPR.
Lord Sumption highlighted that the Overriding Objective requires the courts to enforce compliance with the CPR and that Mr Barton’s failure to comply with the rules of service had correctly lead to the striking out of his claim.
Lord Sumption also stated that he did not accept Mr Barton’s argument that the CPR were inaccessible and obscure for litigants in person. In fact, Lord Sumption stated that rules were accessible via the internet, that the claim form specifically highlighted where to find them, and that Part 6 is clearly headed “Service of Documents”.
The Supreme Court therefore held that no special status should be afforded to litigants in person and a lack of knowledge or understanding of the rules shall be treated as non-compliance with the rules.
The Supreme Court have stated that “it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step he is about to take”. This is now the second time the Supreme Court have considered CPR 6.15 in particular, and both times have concluded that the rule should be reconsidered in light of the issues with litigants in person.
If you are a litigant in person, you must ensure that you familiarise yourself with the CPR to ensure compliance. If you require advice or assistance with a claim, please do not hesitate to contact Alexandra Withers on 0191 232 0283.