Due to a mistake in serving the claim form, our case about the award of contracts to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited has not been able to proceed.
Our external solicitors emailed the claim form that commences proceedings directly to the Government lawyers working on the case, as they had been asked to do, but failed to send it to a generic “new proceedings” email address by way of formal “service”, as had also been requested. The Government’s lawyers confirmed receipt of the papers almost immediately after receiving them but did not flag that the “new proceedings” email had not been copied until one day after the deadline for service.
This mistake had no practical consequences for the Government’s ability to prepare a defence, since their solicitors were aware of the claim well before the deadline. However, two of the Court of Appeal judges hearing the case found that the error should nonetheless prevent the claim from being pursued.
The dissenting Judge in the Court of Appeal disagreed, observing that the mistake “did not have (and was never likely to have) any practical consequences whatsoever” and:
“If service is not to be validated retrospectively in such circumstances, form really has triumphed over substance and litigation has become a game of forfeits: the overriding objective, to deal with cases justly, has itself been overridden.”
We are grateful to the Supreme Court for granting permission for our appeal to proceed, and remain hopeful that a different decision will be reached so that we can pursue this important claim.
Decisions like this have real consequences. We believe a company with connections to Ministers was paid almost double the going rate for facemasks, even though Government had been offered cheaper alternatives. If the claim can’t be heard, the public may never find out why.
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