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Nanglegan v Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust

1 February 2001
The issues

Service of a Claim Form upon Defendant where Defendant had nominated Solicitors

The facts

The Claimant had a PI claim. Proceedings were issued on the last day before the limitation period. The Defendant’s insurers had notified the Claimant’s solicitors that they had instructed Browne Jacobson to accept service of the Claim Form and that it had been confirmed by Browne Jacobson. The Claim Form was served upon the Defendant and not upon the solicitors. 4 days later the Claimant’s solicitor discovered the error prior to leaving on holiday for 2 weeks and left a tape message for his secretary to telephone Browne Jacobson to explain what had happened.

The letter was sent on 6th September which was outside the 4 month period of the validity of the Claim Form. It was sent by Browne Jacobson on 7th December. The Defendant sought an order that service had not been valid. Three days prior to the hearing of that application the Claimant issued retrospective extension of time for service. At first instance the District Judge concluded that service had not complied with the provisions of the rules but exercised the discretion to extend time. On appeal the Circuit Judge held that service had not been valid but refused to exercise discretion to extend time.

The Claimant appealed.

The decision

The obligation in Civil Procedure Rules 6.5 was on a party to give an address for service. Once that had been done service should be at that address. Where solicitors had been nominated by the Defendant to accept service during the period of validity of the Claim Form it was right that service should be upon those solicitors. There was no scope in such a situation for service on any other party, notwithstanding Civil Procedure Rules 6.5 (5)(b).

As regard to the exercise of discretion, the Judge had considered Civil Procedure Rules 7.6 and had been correct to find neither of the requirements that exercise discretion had satisfied (namely if the Claimant had taken all reasonable steps to serve the Claim Form had been unable to do so and if Claimant had acted promptly).

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