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How Court Papers and Documents are Served

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 20 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Court justice party case proceedings

It is a fundamental principal of justice that a party is entitled to know the nature of the case against him. Further, whenever a party on either side of proceedings intends to rely on a document as part of their case it is almost inevitable that the other side will be entitled to see it. Service describes the process of sending or delivering documents to a party in court proceedings.

Service Under the Civil Procedure Rules

Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) sets out the modern approach to service of court documents. Although special rules apply to some specific documents - for example bankruptcy petitions – most documents are now served by sending them to a party by ordinary pre-paid post. Service is said to be “good” if it complies with the rules.

Methods of Service

The CPR sets out the various methods of service that can be used. The usual method of service is by first class post. Other methods of service which may be used include:
  • Personal service – where a document is physically handed to the party. If the party is a limited company or a corporation the document can be handed to a person who has as a senior position in the organisation.
  • Leaving the document at the correct address.
  • Fax, email or document exchange – a party may have to consent to service by these methods.

The Deemed Date of Service

The CPR sets out the date on which a document is deemed to have been served, according to the method of service used. This is the relevant date for the purposes of court proceedings, not the date on which it was sent. This may be crucial in cases where there are strict time limits for the service of a particular document. It is irrelevant if the document in fact arrived after or before the date of deemed service.

The deemed dates for service are as follows:

  • Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day.
  • First class post – the second day after it was posted.
  • Leaving a document at the correct address – the day after it was left at the address.
  • Fax – the same day if sent before 4 pm on a business day. If sent later, the business day after it was sent.
  • Email – the second day after it was sent.

The “Irrebutable Presumption” of Service

It can be difficult for parties to litigation to understand that, in legal terms, service is not the same as delivery or receipt. A claim form is deemed to have been served on a defendant even if it has been returned to the court marked undelivered – provided that it was sent to the last known or usual address of the defendant. The claim form is even deemed to have been served if the claimant knows that the defendant has left that address – unless they know the defendant’s new address.

This rule is so strict that there is nothing the defendant can do to rebut it even if they have conclusive proof that they never received the document. There is even case law that says that service was still good where a document was sent to a property which had previously been destroyed.

The Correct Address for Service

For service to be good it must have been sent to the correct address. This will depend on the nature of the party to be served. The correct address where the party is:
  • an Individual – their usual or last known residence;
  • an Individual who runs a business or operates under a trading name – their usual or last known residence OR their (last known) place of business;
  • a Limited Company – the registered office of the company OR any place of business which is connected to the claim;
  • a Corporation - the registered office of the corporation OR any place where the corporation conducts its activities which has a connection to the claim.

Service on a Party’s Solicitor

If a party has a solicitor acting for him and that solicitor is “on the record” or has agreed to accept service, documents should be served by sending them to the solicitor. A solicitor goes on the record by lodging at court a formal statement that they are acting for the party in relation to the case.

Service Out of the Jurisdiction

The basic assumption behind all the rules of service is that the party to be served is within the jurisdiction. If a party to be served is not within the jurisdiction the court’s permission may well have to be obtained before court documents can be served on them.

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Hello I want to send a letter to a small company that was dissolved in January 2017. I know a new small company operates from the same address and the director is closely related to the dissolved company. Will the court accept that i have made all reasonable attempts to contact the dissolved company if i post to the address of the dissolved company (post then post a reminder with proof of postage and multiple emails)? thanks iain
iain - 20-May-17 @ 11:06 AM
The plot thickens! I posted the documents I intend to use at the hearing later this month and they arrived at the court in good time. I also got a receipt from the court confirming my payment of £335. The defendant has not sent the court anything and has not even acknowledged receipt of the papers I sent showing the evidence. This might be because the 'eminent lawyer' I met last Tuesday reviewed my 'bundle' and spotted something that proves beyond all doubt that the defendant tried to defraud me at the outset. The defence literally has no legs to stand on and if he tries to offer a certain piece of 'evidence' to substantiate his defence he could be committing perjury. I'm sure his McKenzie Friend will have pointed that out to him but I've heard nothing from him, either. I'm half expecting a cheque for a derisory amount in the post "in full and final settlement" of the contested debt (which if I was stupid enough to cash would be the end of my claim) and will delight in returning it with a suitably sardonic letter. Less than two weeks to go.........
Buzz - 3-May-17 @ 5:08 PM
The plot thickens! I posted the documents I intend to use at the hearing later this month and they arrived at the court in good time. I also got a receipt from the court confirming my payment of £335. The defendant has not sent the court anything and has not even acknowledged receipt of the papers I sent showing the evidence. This might be because the 'eminent lawyer' I met last Tuesday reviewed my 'bundle' and spotted something that proves beyond all doubt that the defendant tried to defraud me at the outset. The defence literally has no legs to stand on and if he tries to offer a certain piece of 'evidence' to substantiate his defence he could be committing perjury. I'm sure his McKenzie Friend will have pointed that out to him but I've heard nothing from him, either. I'm half expecting a cheque for a derisory amount in the post "in full and final settlement" of the contested debt (which if I was stupid enough to cash would be the end of my claim) and will delight in returning it with a suitably sardonic letter. Less than two weeks to go.........
Buzz - 3-May-17 @ 8:27 AM
On the subject of serving documents, I have to pay the final £335 for the hearing by 16.00 fourteen days before the date. I also have to produce my 'bundle' of evidence that I intend to rely on in court to the court buildings and also to the defendant on the same day. There's a bit of tactics involved here; do I leave it until the very last moment (the defendant also must provide me with evidence that will be produced in court), or do I send it in early and give the defence a chance to find evidence rebutting mine? My initial feeling was to send it in early, but that choice has been removed as a very eminent lawyer whom I've known for over 25 years has agreed to look at my bundle and advise me (for free! He normally charges £400+ per hour). However, he can only see me on the Tuesday and my bundles must be presented to the court and the defendant by Thursday of the same week. I'll pay the £335 to the courts on Wednesday and send the bundles by Royal Mail (GuaranteedDelivery before 13.00 the next day) either on Tuesday evening, assuming 'my' lawyer doesn't suggest a significant change to my bundles, or on Wednesday if I have to make substantial changes. This website advises: "The deemed dates for service are as follows: Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day." Does "Royal Mail Guaranteed delivery before 13.00 the day following postage" qualify as 'Personal service'? If not then I'll have to either deliver it myself (my wife will not agree to that) or pay someone else to do it. As I'm hoping that others in a similar situation will be reading this, a word to the wise: I was taken off-guard by the 'extra' £335 I have to pay for the hearing. I thought that once I'd paid the MCOL fee of £410 that would be enough to 'have my day in court'. It is not clear anywhere online what the full costs can be unless you understand the process entirely.
Buzz - 24-Apr-17 @ 6:46 AM
On the subject of serving documents, I have to pay the final £335 for the hearing by 16.00 fourteen days before the date. I also have to produce my 'bundle' of evidence that I intend to rely on in court to the court buildings and also to the defendant on the same day. There's a bit of tactics involved here; do I leave it until the very last moment (the defendant also must provide me with evidence that will be produced in court), or do I send it in early and give the defence a chance to find evidence rebutting mine? My initial feeling was to send it in early, but that choice has been removed as a very eminent lawyer whom I've known for over 25 years has agreed to look at my bundle and advise me (for free! He normally charges £400+ per hour). However, he can only see me on the Tuesday and my bundles must be presented to the court and the defendant by Thursday of the same week. I'll pay the £335 to the courts on Wednesday and send the bundles by Royal Mail (GuaranteedDelivery before 13.00 the next day) either on Tuesday evening, assuming 'my' lawyer doesn't suggest a significant change to my bundles, or on Wednesday if I have to make substantial changes. This website advises: "The deemed dates for service are as follows: Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day." Does "Royal Mail Guaranteed delivery before 13.00 the day following postage" qualify as 'Personal service'? If not then I'll have to either deliver it myself (my wife will not agree to that) or pay someone else to do it. As I'm hoping that others in a similar situation will be reading this, a word to the wise: I was taken off-guard by the 'extra' £335 I have to pay for the hearing. I thought that once I'd paid the MCOL fee of £410 that would be enough to 'have my day in court'. It is not clear anywhere online what the full costs can be unless you understand the process entirely.
Buzz - 21-Apr-17 @ 5:47 AM
Buzz - Your Question:
+BYT77. Thanks for your comment and I agree that McKenzie Friends can pose a potential problem by " messing up your day in court and ruffling the judge's feathers."I think you've misunderstood my position, though. I am the claimant and will be representing myself alone in court. The defendant has employed a 'Profession McKenzie Friend' and my question here was regarding what remit the McKenzie Friend of the defendant has. I am rather hoping that he does, indeed, "mess up the defendant's day in court by ruffling the judge's feathers"!I'll certainly report back after the hearing to say what happened.

Our Response:
A McKenzie Friend is someone who accompanies a litigant in court to provide moral support. They may also take notes, help the litigant find the correct papers and give advice on questions to ask witnesses etc. They cannot however speak for the litigant, or run the case for them. They cannot; examine witnesses, address the court (though the judge may be prepared to hear from them if this would clarify an issue and assist in the swift administration of justice), or attend a closed court unless they have prior permission from the court. I hope this helps answer your question.
AboutSmallClaims - 20-Apr-17 @ 3:06 PM
+BYT77 . Thanks for your comment and I agree that McKenzie Friends can pose a potential problem by " messing up your day in court and ruffling the judge's feathers." I think you've misunderstood my position, though. I am the claimant and will be representing myself alone in court. The defendant has employed a 'Profession McKenzie Friend' and my question here was regarding what remit the McKenzie Friend of the defendant has. I am rather hoping that he does, indeed, "mess up the defendant's day in court by ruffling the judge's feathers"! I'll certainly report back after the hearing to say what happened.
Buzz - 20-Apr-17 @ 10:41 AM
On the subject of serving documents, I have to pay the final £335 for the hearing by 16.00 fourteen days before the date. I also have to produce my 'bundle' of evidence that I intend to rely on in court to the court buildings and also to the defendant on the same day. There's a bit of tactics involved here; do I leave it until the very last moment (the defendant also must provide me with evidence that will be produced in court), or do I send it in early and give the defence a chance to find evidence rebutting mine? My initial feeling was to send it in early, but that choice has been removed as a very eminent lawyer whom I've known for over 25 years has agreed to look at my bundle and advise me (for free! He normally charges £400+ per hour). However, he can only see me on the Tuesday and my bundles must be presented to the court and the defendant by Thursday of the same week. I'll pay the £335 to the courts on Wednesday and send the bundles by Royal Mail (GuaranteedDelivery before 13.00 the next day) either on Tuesday evening, assuming 'my' lawyer doesn't suggest a significant change to my bundles, or on Wednesday if I have to make substantial changes. This website advises: "The deemed dates for service are as follows: Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day." Does "Royal Mail Guaranteed delivery before 13.00 the day following postage" qualify as 'Personal service'? If not then I'll have to either deliver it myself (my wife will not agree to that) or pay someone else to do it. As I'm hoping that others in a similar situation will be reading this, a word to the wise: I was taken off-guard by the 'extra' £335 I have to pay for the hearing. I thought that once I'd paid the MCOL fee of £410 that would be enough to 'have my day in court'. It is not clear anywhere online what the full costs can be unless you understand the process entirely.
Buzz - 20-Apr-17 @ 9:21 AM
@Buzz - be careful. You don't want your McF messing up your day in court and ruffling the judge's feathers. I'm just looking into the McF to help me - but there are a lot of conflicting reports about how useful they really are and how because they are not always legally trained, how they can make the situation worse. Let us know how you get on. Ben.
BYT77 - 18-Apr-17 @ 2:02 PM
My question regarding the role of a McKenzie Friend in a Small claims Court was answered comprehensively and has completely endorsed what I thought to be the case, but my wife needed more than my assurances that I had done my research thoroughly. I am also very grateful for the confirmation as I had asked two solicitors casually what they thought and the answers were somewhat ambivalent. This response was unequivocal and I will now feel very much more confident on the day of the hearing. I will comment further after 'my day in court' as I'm certain the McKenzie Friend will try and overstep his remit. It will be interesting (to me at least) to see how the Judge deals with it. Politely at first, I'm sure, but I know this 'McKenzie Friend' and I dont believe he will be silenced easily.
Buzz - 18-Apr-17 @ 6:30 AM
Buzz - Your Question:
I am making a small claim against someone I believe will lie in court, even if under oath. The defendant has used a Lay Representative in all correspondence and has stated that this “Professional McKenzie Friend” will act for the defendant throughout the proceedings.Can the defendant decline to speak in court and thereby avoid committing perjury? Is the Professional McKenzie Friend allowed to speak in a small claims court? Can I request that the defendant speaks under oath? Am I allowed to say I believe the defendant will lie?

Our Response:
A McKenzie friend can give quiet advice on points of law to the litigant, advise the litigant on issues that they might want to raise in court. They can suggest to the litigant questions that they might want to ask the other party or witnesses and help organise documents or take notes. However, a McKenzie friend cannot; speak for the litigant, examine witnesses, address the court (though the judge may be prepared to hear from them if this would clarify an issue and assist in the swift administration of justice.) They cannot attend a closed court unless they have prior permission from the court, or sign court documents on the litigant's behalf. The defendent will be under oath.
AboutSmallClaims - 13-Apr-17 @ 12:19 PM
I am making a small claim against someone I believe will lie in court, even if under oath. The defendant has used a Lay Representative in all correspondence and has stated that this “Professional McKenzie Friend” will act for the defendant throughout the proceedings. Can the defendant decline to speak in court and thereby avoid committing perjury? Is the Professional McKenzie Friend allowed to speak in a small claims court? Can I request that the defendant speaks under oath? Am I allowed to say I believe the defendant will lie?
Buzz - 12-Apr-17 @ 4:00 PM
WHAT a sham the small claims courts are, mediation waist of human sorceresses, direction hearing 18th Jan defendant told to issue an up dated counter claim to be issued to the court and my self by the 15 Feb, i am to reply by the 15th March, have not received order from Jan 18th, not received counter claim from defendant,phoned court on four accations now, all im told their is a back log, can i tell the vat man he cant get paid because i have a back log,know wonder people dont pay their debts, these small claims courts are a joke
del - 16-Mar-17 @ 6:58 AM
Hi there, if I only know of the person whom owes me money work address, can I send the court papers to her work address?. Thank yo
Footy - 13-Mar-17 @ 11:41 AM
The judge has instructed the claimant to send to the court and me ( the defendant) by 13th Jana copy of an amended claim This form has been sent registered post on the 20th January.Which is too late what can I do.Can I have the case thrown out ??
Rob - 24-Jan-17 @ 11:09 AM
A tenant has moved out of my property having not paid rent or settled any bills. She has not left a forwarding address. I do know where she works though. Can I send papers there or give them in person to her there?
Dannyboy - 24-Oct-16 @ 6:04 PM
...Just to add, I have not heard anything, absolutely nothing from 'D' since the day before my goods arrived!...then this 'C' took over...?!! (lol) Thanks :)
TiaMaria - 23-Sep-16 @ 9:26 AM
Hi there, Hoping to find answer to the following; Am in dispute with a company, well, one of the directors ('C') of a car sales company. I used a removals company and dealt with 'D' from beginning to the day before my 3 bed house contents arrived (6 days late and one man loaded & unloaded contents alone resulting in numerous damages as unable to lift large items correctly which is understandable but I had insisted it would need 2 men and it was agreed but not carried out) now, 'C' from the car sales company who only got involved the day before my goods arrived, just to put my mind at ease that my goods were not stolen and I would receive them, (they had lost track of the driver and it being 5 days late and no ETA would be given to me) has insisted on dealing with harassing me for the balance of the agreement (agreement which was breached in every way and I have 'bollocked him and advised him why but he kept insisting on possible debt collectors, court etc) He insists 'D's removal company is 'trading style' of 'C's car sales company and legally entitled to chase up the balance and offered a small (23.7%) discount for the delay & lack of communication. ('C' insists I am only angry because of those issues regardless of my advising him of the others; lack of professionalism & honesty, Breach of Contract/Agreement - The job was not carried out with due care and skill, resulting in my goods being damaged/broken, Breach of contract/Agreement - Timescale, Damages to cover costs of damaged/broken furniture/goods) He advised me he would take it to small claims and emailed to say "The claim has now been progressed with reference C3QZ1H3K"! I asked him for proof of his 'blanket insurance' policy and Proof that ‘D' is a trading style of 'C' and is effectively one in the same managed by 'D’ which should in turn validate ‘Liability for contract’ which he ignored & did not provide the first and refused the latter.I have no idea where I am attending this court case (I had my belongings moved from UK to Spain and he is based in UK) and I have not received papers as yet. How do I find out if he REALLY has issued a claim? Can he claim against me in UK when I am (for the moment) residing in Spain? Is he legally obliged to send me the particulars of the claim to me asap? Sorry it's SO long, and any advise would be most appreciated. Thank you :)
TiaMaria - 23-Sep-16 @ 9:22 AM
Hi, lve just had to complete a C C summons against my son, sadly. However, l know he's aware lve instigated them but what will happen if his g/f answers the door and doesn't accept them? Thanks.
PaulL - 28-Aug-16 @ 6:28 PM
i am given an assignment where im required to file the necessary papers inorder for my client to serve summons.The factual issue is that the defendants adress is unknown.Her usual adress was at Esikhawini and later it has been alleged that she redides at richards bay,of which her whereabouts in richsrds bay are unknown. Kindly advise on the necessary paper's in order for my client to serve summons
NZamora - 26-Aug-16 @ 12:34 PM
PaulBrighton - Your Question:
Whenever you lend ANYBODY money, be they a friend, a family member, ALWAYS get them to sign a piece of paper to the effect they acknowledge receipt of the money, plus the agreed terms of repayment. If you don't, you'll BITTERLY regret it if you take out a County Court Summons.I've been bitten TWICE by a family member ( not the same one) now lve learned my lesson!

Our Response:
Many thanks for your comments. You are right. As mercenary as it may seem at the time, it can protect the lender later on if they are trying to re-claim the money through the small claims courts. The lender will always have to be able to prove the money was a loan and not a gift and if there is nothing written down, this can be very difficult.
AboutSmallClaims - 23-Aug-16 @ 2:54 PM
Can l have a County Court Summons issued to a defendant's place of work?
PaulBrighton - 23-Aug-16 @ 1:13 PM
Whenever you lend ANYBODY money, be they a friend, a family member, ALWAYS get them to sign a piece of paper to the effect they acknowledge receipt of the money, plus the agreed terms of repayment. If you don't, you'll BITTERLY regret it if you take out a County Court Summons...I've been bitten TWICE by a family member ( not the same one) now lve learned my lesson!
PaulBrighton - 23-Aug-16 @ 1:10 PM
Marty Mosic - Your Question:
A parking company is threatening legal action and I believe they can do this anytime in the next 6 years. I am often abroad and very rarely at the address they have obtained from DVLA. It is a room in a rented house.If I give them my email address can I ensure court papers are served by email or can I lodge my email with the court system. I wish to avoid their claim going against me through default.

Our Response:
I think in this instance it is advisable to speak to the parking company directly.
AboutSmallClaims - 15-Apr-16 @ 9:48 AM
A parking company is threatening legal action and I believe they can do this anytime in the next 6 years. I am often abroad and very rarely at the address they have obtained from DVLA. Itis a room in a rented house. If I give them my email address can I ensurecourt papers are served by email or can I lodge my email with the court system. I wish to avoid their claim going against me through default.
Marty Mosic - 14-Apr-16 @ 10:05 AM
I want to use the small claims court to reclaim money's owed to me by an old friend. In order for me to serve them I need their address but they are refusing to provide this information. I have their work address can I use this?
Hannah - 28-Mar-16 @ 9:30 PM
An order was issued by the court for defendant to pay on small claims court.defendant did not pay so I decided to order them to attend court for questioning. formN39 has been delivered to my address and I have been asked to deliver this personally how do I prove I have delivered this document personally? They say I have to fill in form n215 certificate f service but it doesn't have anyway to prove I was there? How can I prove it?
juan - 3-Mar-16 @ 12:12 PM
reesie - Your Question:
Hi upon leaving hospital and visiting my mother's address, my mother handed me post which is odd as I do not reside there, when I opened it, it was court papers which states they have been served upon me, these are with regards to my ex who I fled due to Dv wanting residency of our son. I'm unsure what to do as I don't have a solicitor any advice would be much appreciated. The hearing is in two weeks.

Our Response:
You would really need to seek some legal advice regarding this, as not knowing the full situation, we cannot advise.
AboutSmallClaims - 26-Jan-16 @ 12:31 PM
Hi upon leaving hospital and visiting my mother's address, my mother handed me post which is odd as I do not reside there, when I opened it, it was court papers which states they have been served upon me, these are with regards to my ex who I fled due to Dv wanting residency of our son. I'm unsure what to do as I don't have a solicitorany advice would be much appreciated. The hearing is in two weeks.
reesie - 25-Jan-16 @ 7:58 PM
Have employment case all through acas,tribunal has sent papers to defendant however every known address he is sending back papers saying "not at this address" even his office address not ltd company . Can I serve papers for employment rights act 1996 for non payment of due salary on his lawyer instead ? english and welsh law . I do not want to attend in person to serve in case of any confrontation & to avoid corroborated accusations of such even though false Please advise
curious claimant - 18-Sep-15 @ 2:38 PM
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