Litigants in person

If someone wants to bring legal proceedings against another, it is necessary to serve notice of those proceedings.

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We have reported in earlier newsletters on the withdrawal of public funding (‘legal aid’) for many types of claims. Some of the legal areas affected are: private family law, welfare benefits and immigration. This has led to an increase in the number of people attending court and acting for themselves. These are known as ‘litigants in person’.

If someone wants to bring legal proceedings against another, it is necessary to ‘serve’ notice of those proceedings. The procedure for doing this is set down in the Civil Procedure Rules. These Rules broadly state that the methods of service are: personal service, first class post (or document exchange), leaving it at an address or by fax.

Service by email is permissible but only if the recipient has indicated that they are willing to accept service by email (note that many legal firms will not accept service on behalf of client by email).

A recent Supreme Court case has confirmed that emailing the claim form in the absence of an agreement from a defendant to accept service by that method was not valid service.

Interestingly, the Court also made it clear that litigants in person are not a special category and are not subject to a lower standard of compliance with Rules or orders of the Court.

This is an important reminder that if proceedings are not validly served in the first place, the claim will fail.

To discuss this or any other litigation related matter, contact us.

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