Can civil proceedings be served upon a defendant’s last known address?

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The claimant must take reasonable steps to ascertain the address of the defendant’s current residence

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Yes. The recent case of American Leisure Group v Garrard (2014) EWHC 2101, confirmed, as per CPR 6.9 (3), that where a claimant has reason to believe that the address of the defendant is an address at which the defendant no longer resides or carries on business, the claimant must take reasonable steps to ascertain the address of the defendant’s current residence or place of business (‘current address’).

Under CPR 6.9 (6), where paragraph (3) applies, the claimant may serve on the defendant’s usual or last known address when the defendant’s current address cannot be ascertained.

However, if reasonable steps are not taken then it is more likely than not that a defendant will be successful in any application to set aside judgement at a later date.

What are reasonable steps?

An obligation to use ‘reasonable steps’ or ‘endeavours’ means that a claimant should adopt and pursue one reasonable course of action in order to achieve the desired result, bearing in mind its own commercial interests and the likelihood of success and which need not be exhaustive of every course available to it.

So, in this instance the claimant may, for example, instruct an enquiry agent in an attempt to trace the whereabouts of the errant party. If the agent draws a blank, then the claimant will at least be able to serve the defendant at its last known address and show that it took reasonable steps.

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Howard TilneyHead of Strategy / Legal AdvisorRead More by this author

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