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A recent decision of the High Court serves as a salutary reminder for ensuring that the correct court fee is paid at the time of issuing a claim, particularly in cases where limitation is nearing.

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The importance of paying the correct court fee at the time of issuing a claim

25 January 2016

A recent decision of the High Court serves as a salutary reminder for ensuring that the correct court fee is paid at the time of issuing a claim, particularly in cases where limitation is nearing.

To read more about the decision in Richard Lewis and others -v- Ward Hadaway (a firm) [2015] EWHC 3503 (Ch), click here.

The background

The Defendant applied to strike out the claims of the 31 Claimants on the basis that incorrect issue fees had been paid.  Whilst the Claimants had produced letters of claim claiming substantial sums in each case, when the claim forms were issued the court fees paid were insufficient for claims of the values stated in the pre-action correspondence.  The court fees paid were generally up to £240, which was the appropriate fee at the time for a claim limited to £15,000 or less. 

Before service, the claim forms were amended and the correct fees paid.  It transpired that the Claimants had deliberately behaved in this manner to try to stop the limitation clock running, as there was insufficient disbursement funding in place at the time of issue.  The Defendant argued that there had been an abuse of process by the Claimants.  It became apparent that the Claimants' solicitors had adopted the same approach in other cases in addition to the present one.

In the alternative, the Defendant applied for summary judgment in respect of 11 claims for which limitation had passed by the time the correct court fee was paid. 

The decision

Despite holding that the approach taken by the Claimants was an abuse of process, the Court declined to strike out the claims on the basis that it would be disproportionate to do so.  However, the Defendant's application for summary judgment on the grounds of limitation was successful as the 11 Claimants in question had not done "all that was in their power to do to set the wheels of justice in motion according to the process laid down" when they issued their claims, by failing to pay the correct fee. 

Comment

Whilst somewhat of an unusual factual matrix given the risky approach that the Claimants took in this matter, this case does further emphasise the importance of paying the correct court fee when claims are issued.  Failing to do so can have fatal consequences for a claim.