Service of proceedings in times of Covid-19
07 AUG 2020
Although some workplaces are beginning to open up after several months of lockdown, many businesses’ offices remain closed and staff continue to work almost entirely from their homes. This article briefly examines the impact of this where litigation proceedings need to be served on the defendant but where its business premises are closed due to Covid-19.
The court’s approach
In normal times, if a claimant serves proceedings on the defendant (eg, by posting documents to its business premises) but does not receive a defence in response in due course, the claimant can ask the court to enter a default judgment in its favour. In essence, its claim is then successful without any further involvement of the defendant.
But what if the defendant’s business premises have remained closed due to the pandemic, but the claimant servers proceedings there anyway? Recent case law confirms that courts will be against parties attempting to gain a procedural advantage out of Covid-19. They have expressed understanding of the practical issues faced by parties during the pandemic and are aware that procedural rules should not be applied as strictly as usual.
Therefore, defendant parties may well be able to apply to the court to set aside default judgments against them if they can show that there is a good Covid-related reason for doing so. As far as service of proceedings is concerned, defendants will likely be successful if they can show that (a) their business premises were closed throughout the pandemic and (b) the claimant party should have been (or was) aware about this and tried to take procedural advantage of the pandemic. If succeeds, the judgment will be set aside and the proceedings will continue. The court will likely order the claimant to pay the costs incurred by the defendant in challenging the default judgment.
To avoid issues, parties should nevertheless try to monitor the address they originally gave for service (most commonly, their business premises). For example, if the office is operating at limited capacity, the business should ensure that at least some staff are alerted about proceedings being potentially served (eg, by post). This is because the outcome of any application to set aside a default judgment will ultimately depend on the circumstances of the case, and there is no guarantee that defendants will always be successful.Alternatively, the defendant may agree with the claimant on an alternative method and/or place of serving proceedings. For instance, the defendant could agree to accept service by email.
Overall, litigation is a highly technical and fact-sensitive area of the law, so each situation is likely to be different. If you need additional guidance and support with your litigation (Covid-19 related or otherwise), we are open for business as usual and are happy to advise. Please get in touch with our team at email@example.com.
Yulia BarnesManaging Partner
Yulia Barnes is our Managing Partner. She is an experienced solicitor and advises on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious matters for both private and corporate clients.Yulia started her legal career at a large international Magic Circle firm. She then became a partner at a regional law firm and headed a Dispute Resolution Department. She then moved in-house before starting her own Boutique practice, Barnes Law, with the aim of providing exclusive services to high net-worth individuals and privately-owned businesses. More details can be found on her LinkedIn profile.
Expertise Yulia and her team are widely recognised for their professional and practical approach to matters. She is committed to ensuring that her clients’ objectives are achieved in the most cost-effective way possible.
Approach Yulia has a wealth of experience working with businesses of all sizes: from large multinational corporations to start-ups. She has particular expertise in a hospitality industry, investment funds, private and corporate clients, and focuses on startups and technology-driven companies. Yulia brings the same level of attention to detail, professionalism and a personal touch to every case and client, and truly immerses herself in her clients’ businesses. She prides herself on her problem-solving, commercially astute approach and her track record of partnering with clients to help them achieve their strategic objectives.
Will joined Barnes Law as an Associate Solicitor in Spring 2023, shortly after qualifying in September 2022.
Will works mostly on real estate and corporate/commercial matters. Will enjoys providing advice on transactional matters.
Away from the office, Will can be found reading or playing golf. While he played rugby until university, and rowed throughout his degree, he now tends to watch both from the sidelines. During the winter he can also be found skiing.
Will plans to continue developing his legal skills and experience at Barnes Law, under the expertise and guidance provided by Yulia.
Mark is an experienced solicitor whose practice areas include intellectual property (IP), IT, data protection and general commercial law.
Mark advises businesses of all sizes – from sole traders to corporations. Among his clients are: clothing and lifestyle brands, restaurants and food suppliers, IT companies, banks, hedge funds and venture capital firms, education providers, medical and pharmaceutical brands.
Outside of his practice, Mark also advises members of the Institute of Directors as part of its Directors’ Advisory Service.
- Prosecuting a UK trademark application on behalf of an education provider and representing them in related UK IPO opposition and revocation proceedings;
- Advising a publisher and a delivery business on data protection matters, B2B and B2C Ts & Cs of sale, website and app Ts & Cs, all aspects of global brand protection;
- Advising footwear brands, alternative asset managers and hedge funds on their global brand protection, including overcoming various refusals, representing them in opposition proceedings and settlement negotiations;
- Representing a central bank in opposition proceedings before the UK IPO;
- Advising a lifestyle brand concerning trademark clearance and protection, negotiations for a website/app development and maintenance agreement.
Ioulia TatawatFamily Law Adviser
Ioulia has a solid background in family law and offers guidance, clarity, and support to clients during one of their most challenging times in their life.
She advises on all three pillars of separation: divorce, children matters and financial settlements. Ioulia is a member of Resolution and is keen to try to settle matters at early stages.
Ioulia is dedicated to assisting clients and navigating them through their legal matters with clarity and support.
Alex joined Barnes Law in September 2023 after finishing his master’s degree in law. Prior to joining Barnes Law, Alex worked in property litigation at Ashfords. Alex assists Yulia on a variety of both contentious and non-contentious matters.
Outside of the office, Alex enjoys reading and hiking. Prior to working in law, Alex was a competitive tennis player.
Alex continues to develop his skills in legal practice under Yulia’s guidance, he plans to sit the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exams (SQE) in 2024.
Mehves joined Barnes Law in August 2023, right after graduating from Queen Mary, University of London (LLB Senior Status). As part of her qualification journey, Mehves is currently pursuing her Legal Practice Course (‘LPC’) at the University of Law. She also holds a degree in European Union Law from Maastricht University, Netherlands.
Mehves works closely with Yulia on a variety of contentions matters and also writes Barnes Law’s legal blogs, manages social media accounts and is responsible for marketing.
Outside of work and studies, she enjoys running, tennis and yoga.
Mehves is looking forward to developing her legal skills at Barnes Law.
Julia PodgornovaInvestor Relationship Manager
Julia guides clients in making important business decisions based on comprehensive risk assessment and strategy. She supports investors in devising strategies designed to maximise each business’s potential from pre-seed to IPO.
Julia’s particular area of expertise are IT start-ups at different stages. Julia supports business through their fund-raising journey. As an Investor Relations Manager, Julia communicates with investors to facilitate a smooth round and legal part of each transaction.
In her free time Julia enjoys sailing, ballroom dancing, art exhibitions and travel.