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Serving Legal Proceedings on a Partnership

An important part of civil proceedings is to ensure that service of claim forms have been effected correctly. Many litigators in their legal career will have been caught out on this point as different rules apply depending on the type of party you are serving upon.

What is Service?

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), rules that govern civil litigation, broadly define service as ‘undertaking steps outlined by the court as being necessary to bring documents used in court proceedings to a person’s attention’.

CPR Part 6 governs the procedure for service of a claim form. When serving on a Partnership (see definition below) we must follow CPR 6.3 (3), which sets out:

  • (3) A Limited Liability Partnership may be served –
    • (a) by any method permitted under this Part; or
    • (b) by any of the methods of service permitted under the Companies Act 2006 as applied with modification by regulations made under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2000.

In Key Homes Bradford Ltd v Patel [2014] EWHC J0110-1, Master Marsh held that the provisions in CPR 6 and Companies Act 2006 s.1140 provide parallel regimes for the purposes of effecting good service.

What is a Partnership?

A Partnership is a type of business structure where two or more people come together with their investment and knowledge to create a business. Each partner reaps their investment and rewards of the business but they are also responsible for liabilities and losses of the Partnership.

There are three types of partnerships:

  • General Partnership

  • Limited Partnership

  • Limited Liability Partnership

Methods of Service

When serving a claim form on a Partnership, all methods set out in CPR 6.3(1) apply.

We have a look at these methods in more detail below:

  • CPR 6.5(3)(c) – Personal Service: Where personal service is required or preferred, the documents must be left with a partner or a person, who, at the time of service, has control or management of the partnership business at its principal place of business.
  • CPR 6.8(1) – Address Given: If an address for service has been given under either CPR 6.7 (address of solicitor) or CPR 6.8 (address given for the purpose of service), you should use this address. Where addresses have been given under both CPR 6.7 and 6.8, those provided in accordance with CPR 6.7 are to be preferred.
  • CPR 6.11 – Place and/or method specified by contract: If the claim relates to a contract and the parties have agreed in that contract to service at a specified place or by a specified method, the claim form may be served in accordance with that agreement.

Where the above rules do not apply, CPR 6.9(2) states that claims forms should be served on a partner of the Partnership at his last known residence, or at the principal or last known place of business. Reasonable steps must be taken to ascertain the address of a partner’s current residence or place of business. If an alternative address is not found then consideration must be given to an alternative method of service.

Who to Serve?

When bringing a claim against a Partnership, the claim must be in name of the Partnership. Proceedings must be brought against those who were partners at the relevant time. CPR seems to indicate that service on one partner alone will be sufficient to notify every relevant partner of the claim.

However, case law seems to suggest otherwise. In, the High Court indicated that the only way in which all partners can be notified is if service is effected at the business address and that, even then, this will only be effective to notify continuing partners. The Court suggested that if partners have retired, their position must be considered individually and that, therefore, they may have to be served separately.

Claimant’s should be cautious and serve on partners individually, especially if partners have been named individually.

Key Points to Remember

  • Compliance with the CPR rules is essential, especially when it comes to Claim Forms.
  • When bringing a claim against a dissolved partnership, reasonable steps must be taken to ascertain the defendant’s current address and a request for a partnership membership statement should be served;
  • Where Partners are named individually they should be served individually; and
  • Plenty of time should be allowed to effect good service before the four month period of validity expires.

If you’re seeking legal advice relating to serving legal proceedings on a Partnership please call our highly experienced dispute resolution experts on 0330 822 3451. Alternatively, you can request a call back online.