A party wishing to issue proceedings must complete a claim form (formerly called a writ or a summons). This should be taken or sent to the court office. These forms are issued by the Court Service and the appropriate court office is stated on the form. The relevant offices are County Courts designated as civil trial centres – are some 58 of them in England and Wales – or feeder county courts which, in relation to multi-track claims, will transfer the case to a civil trial centre after allocating to track and giving case management directions.
The value of the claim is necessary in order to assist the court in deciding to which track to allocate the case. Allocation is considered later in this chapter but, as we saw in Chapter 2, claims which are not worth more than £5,000 will usually be allocated to the small claims track (CPR 27); claims worth more than £5,000 but not more than £15,000 will be allocated to the fast track (CPR 28); and claims for more than £15,000 will be allocated to the multi-track (CPR 29). Also, a fee is payable on issue of the claim form, and this is based on the value of the claim.
On the back of the claim form is a section for particulars of the claim. This gives a concise statement of the facts on which the claimant relies.
Where the particulars of the claim are not included in or with the claim form, they will be served separately.
The particulars of claim conclude with a statement of truth. This states: ‘I believe the facts stated in these Particulars of Claim are true.’ It is signed by the claimant or his solicitor and the address of the firm of solicitors involved is given.
If the court serves the claim form on the defendant, it will normally use first-class mail and delivery is deemed effective on the second day after posting. The court will send the claimant a notice which includes the date when the claim form is deemed to be served. If the claimant serves the claim form, he must file a certificate of service with the court within seven days of deemed service of the claim form. If no such certificate of service is filed, there can be no judgment in default (see later in this chapter).
Service may be personal service where the claim form is left, e.g., at the principal place of business of an organisation or, in the case of a registered company, at its registered office or a branch of the company at which, e.g., the contract under dispute was made.
Where, as is usual, a solicitor is authorised to accept service on behalf of his client, the claim form must be served on the solicitor.
It is important to note that it is proper procedure for the claimant to send the defendant a letter of claim or other form of advanced warning of his involvement in litigation. Failure to do so may result in a penalty in terms of the costs awarded in the case (see Phoenix Finance Ltd v Federation International De L’Automobile (Costs) (2002) The Times, 27 June). Furthermore, the deemed date of delivery mentioned above is not rebuttable by evidence that the defendant did not in fact receive the claim form on the deemed date (see Anderton v Clwyd CC  8 Current Law 70). In addition, the court has power under the Civil Procedure Rules to dispense with service of a claim form in appropriate circumstances (Godwin v Swindon BC  l WLR 997).
The consent of the defendant or his representative is required before service by fax is effective (see Kuenyehia v International Hospitals Group Ltd (2006) The Times, 17 February).