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Supreme Court Says Litigants in Person Get No Special Treatment

Supreme Court Says Litigants in Person Get No Special Treatment


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The Supreme Court ruled on a long running case last week which says that the court should not give Litigants in Person special treatment when they are navigating the court system.

Litigants in person, also known as LiPs, are individuals who have chosen to go to court without a solicitor or barrister representing them.

Using a solicitor to represent you means that you can rely on their knowledge and understanding of the law. They deal with the rules and regulations that are necessary within the law to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities to make a claim.

The case is called Barton v Wright Hassell. The specifics of the case are that Mr Barton, a litigant in person, should have checked whether he was allowed to email his claim form. Because he did not check, his claim was invalidated. This is because you have to complete parts of the litigation process within the timelines given by the court and also provide particular documents to your opponent using Court approved methods of service.

Mr Barton was making a claim against Wright Hassell, a firm of solicitors, for professional negligence. His claim form was presented to the court in February 2013. Once the court has the claim form, Mr Barton’s claim form remained valid for 4 months and the form had to be presented to Wright Hassell so they could see what Mr Barton’s claim was made up of.

During this 4 month period, Berrymans Lace Mawer contacted Mr Barton by email to let him know that they were representing Wright Hassell and that all correspondence should be sent to them.

Mr Barton then sent the claim form to Berrymans by email, on the last day before the claim form expired.

The rules state that unless a law firm has confirmed that they will accept service by email, this is not a valid service method. Mr Barton had not asked Berrymans if they accepted service by email. He simply assumed they did because of the previous correspondence he’d received by email.

As a result of his assumption, his claim form expired and he was out of time to make a claim.

Mr Barton did not think this was fair so he appealed the decision in the Court of Appeal, who upheld the decision made by both the District Judge and the Circuit Judge.

He finally appealed to the Supreme Court to make a final ruling on his claim. His appeal was narrowly defeated, with a majority of three to two.

The Supreme Court decided that he had access to the rules, which are accessible online and he also had prior knowledge that email service was only applicable if permission was expressly given. Mr Barton had been involved in litigation as a litigant in person since 2006 and had a good knowledge of the rules, including those around service by email.

In addition, if he had not waited to serve the claim form on the defendant until the last day before expiry, he would have had time to put the issue right and still serve a valid claim form. Berrymans had no responsibility to inform Mr Barton that they did not accept service by email either. It was his responsibility to make sure that the service method he chose was valid.

As a result of his assumption, he’s lost the ability to continue with his professional negligence claim and lost the opportunity to recover potential financial compensation associated with making a professional negligence claim.

This is why it’s so important to use a specialist solicitor to help you with your claim. Firstly, they understand the rules that are in place and have to navigate them on a daily basis. This means that the chance of a solicitor getting this wrong is much reduced.

But, solicitors are human too and they do sometimes get it wrong. However if your solicitor misses a deadline and your claim is barred as a result, you can make a claim against them via their insurance company for your financial losses.

Every solicitor has to professional indemnity insurance in place and this means if a mistake is made in your litigation, you are protected.

If you think you have a professional negligence claim against a solicitor, talk to our experienced team of solicitors who can help.

There are funding options available to you so you may not need to pay your solicitors fees upfront and if you win, they will be paid by the other side.

We’re happy to offer you a free initial discussion about your case so call now on 0117 926 4121 or make a free online enquiry.