Service at “last known address”

27-02-2012 16:02

Following our most recent blog in which we discussed the Court allowing service of a claim via Facebook, another case concerning service has caught our attention.

The service point was not the main subject matter of the case but the Judge’s ruling in this respect is interesting.  The matter was an application to set aside judgment by one individual Defendant in a case brought by the Liquidators of a company of which the Defendant had been a director.  One of his arguments was that he was never served with the Court papers notifying him of the claim against him. 

The Claim by the Liquidators against three individual Defendants was issued on 9 September 2010.  On 1 October 2010, the relevant Court papers were sent to an address known as “The Tudors”.  As the Liquidators did not know personally of the Defendant’s address they carried out a search at Companies House and saw that at the time of his resignation as director from the Company, the Defendant had lived at “The Tudors”.  It transpired that he no longer lived there, although his wife and children still did so.  However, he had not spoken to his wife (or the other co-Defendant) for a considerable amount of time and his wife did not forward to documents on to him.  The action continued without the Defendant knowing anything about it and Judgment was given against two of the Defendants in the sum of approximately £65,000.

The Defendant became aware of the judgment in September 2011 and in January 2012 he filed a defence to the claim and applied to have the Judgment, in so far as it related to him, set aside.

The Judge had to deal with the application on its merits and decided to set the Judgment aside.  However, on the issue of service he held that the papers had been validly served.  Under the Civil Procedure Rules (“the CPR”), which are the rules which govern the conduct of litigation in England and Wales, state that papers may be served on an individual “at his usual or last known address”.  There are certain circumstances in which the Claimant must make reasonable enquiries to ascertain a defendant’s current address but only when a claimant has “reason to believe that the address is not current”.  The barrister for the Liquidators argued that the Liquidators were entitled to rely on the address at Companies House and that they had no reason to believe that it was the incorrect address, and therefore they did not need to make further enquiries.

The Court agreed with the Liquidator and held that they were entitled to rely on the information from Companies House.  Therefore the papers were validly served.

Each case will very much depend on its own facts, and in other situations, for example if the individual had never lived at a certain address, the outcome will be different.

If you would like any more information about this topic, please contact Emma Hayward.

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