No special treatment

The Supreme Court has answered a recurring question in court procedure – do parties without lawyers get any special treatment?

Today’s decision in Barton v Wright Hassall LLP [2018] UKSC 12 is a clear statement that special allowances are not afforded to litigants in person. This follows the trend in cases exemplified by a high water mark in Mitchell v NGN and then clarified and tempered in Denton v White – the rules are there to be followed.

The Barton case is a particularly hard case as Mr Barton was in the second set of professional negligence proceedings arising out of his divorce (suing the solicitors whom he instructed to sue his divorce lawyers). At the last instant proceedings were issued – otherwise the time bar in the Limitation Act would have stopped Mr Barton; and then attempting to serve those proceedings at the end of the period of validity of the claim form.

By taking the service step in a fashion not permitted in the rules – when the rules were clear regarding what needed to be done to validly serve – was not held to be a circumstance in which the court should exercise its discretion to validate service.

The suggestion is made that the rules need to be brought up to date and this is up to the Civil Procedure Rules Committee.

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