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The court had to consider the date for service within the United Kingdom and whether relief from sanctions and/or an extension of time should be granted.
High Court, Queen's Bench Division
23 October 2013
The claimants' solicitors issued the claim form on 28 March 2013 on behalf of the claimants or their personal representatives for injuries and fatalities sustained in the North Mara gold mine in Tanzania. Therefore, under CPR 7.5 the claim form had to be served by midnight on the calendar day four months after the date of its issue. This would have been midnight on 29 July 2013.
The claim form and was actually served 3 days earlier. However, the particulars of claim containing brief details of the claim were not served with the claim form. They were served sixteen hours after midnight on 29 July 2013 due to a misinterpretation of the rules relating to service of the particulars of claim on the part of the claimants' solicitors. CPR 16.4 was considered where a claim form in the United Kingdom is deemed to be served on the second business day after completion of relevant steps under CPR 7.5(1).
The claimants issued an application seeking a declaration that the particulars of claim were served in time. As an alternative to seeking a declaration that the particulars of claim were served in time, the claimants sought alternative relief: an order for relief against sanctions, under CPR 3.1(2)(a) and 3.9, for non-compliance with CPR 7.4(2) and that time for service of the particulars of claim be extended for sixteen hours or, if necessary, twenty one days from the hearing of the application.
The defendants disputed this application. Mr Justice Simon held that it was clear that the particulars of claim had to be served before midnight four months after the claim form was issued. As such, the particulars of claim in this case were not served in time.
In considering a relief from sanction and/or extension of service of the particulars of claim the criteria in CPR 3.9 analysed. When dealing with such an application, the court had to consider all the circumstances of the case, including the need for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate costs; and to enforce compliance with rules and practice directions.
In taking all the facts of the case into consideration the claimant was granted relief from sanction and permitted a short period, a matter of days to serve the particulars of claim.
This case offers slight relief for claimants at a time when the courts appear to be taking an extremely strict view on sanctions.