In what appears to be the first decision on the issue, Andrew Baker J has held that compliance with a CPR 7.7 notice requiring the claimants to serve or discontinue proceedings by a specified date, had to be tested by the deemed date of service under CPR 6.14 and not by when the claimants complied with CPR 7.5. Accordingly, although the claimants had taken steps to effect service in accordance with CPR 7.5 by delivering or leaving the claim form in the offices of the defendants’ solicitors by the specified date, service was deemed two business days later, which was after the period in the notice had expired. However, although the notice had not been complied with, the judge did not dismiss the claim as, on the facts, the defendants had not suffered prejudice from the non-compliance.

In reaching his decision, the judge held that, where service is within the jurisdiction, compliance with a notice to serve or discontinue is determined by reference to when service occurs, which is both when the relevant step in CPR 7.5 is completed (for example, delivering or leaving the claim form at the place for service) and when the claim form is deemed served. This is because CPR 6.14 fixes the date on which service of a claim form occurs, for all, not only for some CPR purposes.

The practical implication of this decision is that parties should ensure that they serve proceedings in good time, bearing in mind CPR 6.14. The decision also clarifies that a CPR 7.7 notice will not supplant CPR 7.5 and entitle a defendant to reduce the four-month period of validity of a claim form.

It is also of interest that the judge disagreed with Green J’s obiter comments in Ageas (UK) Ltd v Kwik-Fit (GB) Ltd [2013] EWHC 3261 (QB) and Flaux J’s decision in T & L Sugars Ltd v Tate & Lyle Industries Ltd [2014] EWHC 1066 (Comm), that CPR 7.5, not CPR 6.14, was the correct provision to determine the date of service. Although both of those decisions did not relate to CPR 7.7, Andrew Baker J’s disagreement with the reasoning of both judges creates uncertainty in relation to the relationship between CPR 7.5 and CPR 6.14. (Brightside Group Ltd and others v RSM UK Audit LLP and another [2017] EWHC 6 (Comm).)