MCALPINE LTD V RICHARDSON ROOFING CO LTD  EWHC 982 (TCC)
Waksman J held that the service of a particulars of claim by email was invalid as it had not been agreed between the two parties whether electronic service was to be permitted.
Some commentators have suggested that the courts are beginning to adopt a more lenient approach to the electronic service of documents other than the claim form. However, this decision shows that the means of serving court documents by email must be made clear, in advance and effected in good time to constitute good service. As ruled by Waksman J in this case, the party serving must make it clear if it is choosing to serve any documentation by email.
The particulars of claim were sent to the defendant's solicitors by email. They did not accept email as a method of service, and had not indicated that they would do so; consequently, a week later, a further copy of the particulars were served on them by hand by the claimant on a without prejudice basis.
The claimant argued that the original attempt at service was valid. And, in the alternative, that an extension of time should be granted to validate the second attempt. Waksman J held that the defendant's notice of acting (which included an email address) was not a 'response to the claim' giving a sufficient indication as to email service under PD 6A.4.1(2)(c). Furthermore, the claimant's solicitor's reliance on its previous use of email to serve a stay application was not explicit enough for Waksman J: having an awareness of the service of particulars or reliance on previous email service is not good service.
KEY LEGAL POINTS
A key legal point arising from this decision is the importance of parties checking expressly whether email service is acceptable and on what basis before serving any formal court documents by email. In his ruling, Waksman J stressed the need for clarity on service by email, but also urged parties to serve in good time so as to ensure that service is properly effected.
Furthermore, this case is a warning to solicitor's when serving court documents to be wary of PD 6A to save their clients' both in time and costs.