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The answer is yes. The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) apply to all parties – including litigants in person.
By way of an example, the Supreme Court has held that there is a very high threshold to excuse claimants (including litigants in person) from the strict rules for service of legal proceedings.
The claimant, acting in person, issued a legal proceedings alleging negligence against his former solicitors on 25 February 2013.
He elected to serve the Claim Form himself. He emailed the Claim Form to the defendant on 24 June 2013 (within the four month period of validity of the Claim Form).
On 4 July 2013, the solicitors said that they had not provided prior agreement to accept service by email. By that time, the claim was statute barred (i.e. the time limit to serve the Claim Form had been exceeded).
The claimant asked the court to exercise its discretion and make an order that the method of service used was good service, even though it was not otherwise permitted by the rules. A District Judge, a Circuit Judge and the Court of Appeal rejected that argument, so the claimant appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court rejected the argument by a majority of 3:2. Their Lordships found that being a litigant in person does not excuse compliance with the rules. Lord Sumption, in his leading judgment, set out why there was no “good reason” to validate service in that case:
- The rules and Practice Directions are accessible (on the internet) and are clear and not obscure;
- The claimant was an experienced litigant;
- The claimant made no attempt to check the rules and left service until the last minute; and
- The defendant would be deprived of a limitation defence if the claimant was excused for their conduct, which was serious.
In that case, the claimant was given less leeway because they were an experienced litigant and reckless about the rules. If a litigant in person is referred to the CPR at an early stage and does comply with the rules then this could lead a court to having just as little sympathy should service not properly be effected.
Although, this case dealt with service of a Claim Form, the principle is applicable to other rules of the CPR. It is therefore essential that litigants in person make themselves aware of the CPR. If you need any advice or would like our assistance with drafting Court documents and/or serving them and/or aspects of the CPR, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Dispute Resolution team.
Case: Barton v Wright Hassall LLP  UKSC 12 (Bailii).
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