Deemed Service: does ‘Signed for First Class’ delivery get the stamp of approval?

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Following their article on service using Instagram (read here), Rhys Thompson and Michael Evans look at a recent Court of Appeal case which considered whether ‘Signed for First Class’ delivery complied with the Civil Procedure Rules’ (“CPR”) service provisions.

Methods of service

Valid service is crucial for parties starting a claim and throughout the litigation process.

The CPR provides for various methods of valid service including ‘...first class post…or other service which provides for delivery on the next business day…’.

On the face of it, this seems rather straightforward. However, many have questioned whether Royal Mail’s ‘Signed for First Class’ delivery service would fall under this definition and, if it did, what the deemed date of service would be for such method.

To clarify, this is the method of delivery that requires the recipient to provide their signature accepting the documents to complete the delivery process.

Deemed Service

Deemed service is a regime in the CPR that aims to bring certainty to the date on which documents are deemed to be served, regardless of the actual date of service. This is relevant because all subsequent deadlines in litigation flow from that service date.

For first class post or other services providing next business day delivery, the deemed date of service would be ‘…the second day after it was posted…’.

For example, if you posted a document using first class post on a Monday afternoon, it would be deemed served on the other side on the Wednesday, even if it was actually delivered on the Tuesday or Thursday.

Diriye v Bojaj [2020] EWCA Civ 1400

In November, the Court of Appeal had to consider whether documents sent using ‘Signed for First Class’ delivery would be deemed served on the ‘second day after it was posted’. In doing so, it had to decide whether it could be held as a valid method of service under the CPR.

The courts before the Court of Appeal held that the signature requirement meant it was not the equivalent of first-class post and it therefore fell outside of the deemed service provisions above.

The Court of Appeal’s Decision

In a welcomed judgment, the Court of Appeal overturned the decisions of the earlier courts and found, amongst other things, the following:

  • That by its very name and nature, it was a species of first-class post, and therefore falls squarely within the CPR provisions for both a valid method of service and the relevant deemed service provisions;
  •  
  • Even if this was not correct, it would be classed as another service providing for delivery on the next business day and therefore within the deemed service regime; and
  •  
  • It was wrong to distinguish the methods of service based on the requirement for a signature, as the deemed service regime renders actual service irrelevant and exists to provide certainty irrespective of actual service.

Conclusion

This decision is a welcome one for solicitors and litigants in person alike and provides comfort to those who wish to use the ‘Signed for First Class’ delivery method to serve documents and also want to rely on the deemed service provisions.

If you have any queries regarding service of documents, or commercial litigation in general, do not hesitate to get in contact with our specialist Commercial Dispute Resolution team who will be happy to assist with any queries you may have.

RELATED:DISPUTE RESOLUTION


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