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The Supreme Court case of Barton v Wright Hassall LLP revolved around a litigant in person’s failure to comply with the rules of Court set out in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). The Supreme Court Judges confirmed that litigants in person should not be granted a special status in civil court proceedings. It was ruled that whilst a litigant in person’s lack of legal representation may justify making allowances in making case management decisions and conducting hearings, it will not usually justify a lower standard of compliance with rules or orders of the Court.

The Facts of the Case

Mr Barton, the Claimant and litigant in person, sought to bring a claim against Wright Hassall LLP for professional negligence. On the last day prior to the expiry of service of the claim, Mr Barton attempted to serve the claim form and particulars of claim by way of an email to Wright Hassall LLP’s Solicitors, Berrymans Lace Mawyer. As Berrymans Lace Mawyer had not previously confirmed that they would accept service by email, Mr Barton had failed to comply with the CPR rules regarding service. As the deadline for service expired, Mr Barton’s claim was struck out. Mr Barton appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

CPR and The Legal Issue

Under CPR 6.3 and Practice Direction 6A, service of the claim form by email is only valid if the recipient has previously indicated in writing that they are willing to accept service by email. However, under CPR 6.15, the court may make an order permitting service by an alternative method or at an alternative place if there is a “good reason” for doing so.

The Decision

The Supreme Court held that a person’s status as a litigant in person was not, by itself, a “good reason” to validate Mr Barton’s service of the claim. Lord Sumption stated:-

“Unless the rules and practice directions are particularly inaccessible or obscure, it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step which he is about to take”.

Lord Sumption did not consider the rules of service under CPR 6.3 and Practice Direction 6A as either inaccessible or obscure to a litigant in person.

Ramsdens’ Comment

The Supreme Court decision is crucial for both legal practitioners and individuals intending to issue legal proceedings without representation. It confirms that the Courts will not be lenient towards litigants in person who fail to comply with the rules under CPR which in turn could result in the individual’s claim being struck out and them being ordered to pay a considerable amount of costs. We consider that it is vital that individuals seek professional legal representation so to avoid these risks.

For straightforward small claims under £10,000.00, we are able to offer our tailor made package, providing the client with a transparent fee structure so that they are aware of the costs every step of the way.

We can deal with the whole process in order to give our clients peace of mind.

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If you are considering making a small claim, or have had a claim made against you or your business, our solicitors will be able to assist you and advise on the next steps to take. Call our small claims team on 01484 821 500.....we're #heretohelp #smallclaims.

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