A sole practitioner was validly served with a negligence claim at an address listed for him on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) website, the High Court has ruled.
The case was the first to consider whether an individual sued in their own name, trading as their business name – in this case Khurram Mian t/a HKH Kenwright & Cox Solicitors – were sued as an individual or a business.
Ellison Road Ltd alleges that Mr Mian acted negligently, in breach of contract and/or in breach of fiduciary duty in 2016 over advice provided on two loan agreements.
The claim form was issued on 13 May 2022 and delivered by hand to 20 Old Bailey in London on 9 September.
HKH had been at 15 Old Bailey but the claimant’s solicitor said he knew that address was being redeveloped. So he consulted the SRA website, which indicated that Mr Mian no longer worked at HKH and instead was at Moriarty Law at 20 Old Bailey.
The day before the four-month period for service expired, 12 September, the claimant’s solicitor emailed a copy of the claim form and particulars of claim to Mr Mian’s solicitors, Mills & Reeve, “as a matter of courtesy”, and not by way of service.
The firm had not been asked whether it would accept service on behalf of Mr Mian.
Mr Mian argued that he was being sued as an individual and so could only be served at his usual or last known residence.
Master Brightwell disagreed, holding that he was “quite explicitly being sued in the name of a business”, meaning service could be effected at his principal or last known place of business.
Mr Mian then argued that 20 Old Bailey was not at any time his or HKH’s place of business.
The master rejected the submission that the relevant place of business was that of HKH only and not of Mr Mian.
“HKH Kenwright & Cox Solicitors was not a legal entity but rather the trading name adopted by Mr Mian as a sole practitioner. CPR rule 6.9(2) is clear in providing that the relevant place is the principal or last known place of business of an individual who is sued in the name of a business.”
Mr Mian suggested the claimant’s solicitors should have contacted Mills & Reeve to ask if they would accept service or provide Mr Mian’s address, but again the master rejected this.
He said: “[His counsel] did not submit that Mr Mian was not in fact holding himself out as practising as a solicitor at Moriarty Law Limited, or that the address given on the SRA website, i.e. 20 Old Bailey, was not the address at which that firm carried on business.
“I consider that 20 Old Bailey was at 9 September 2022 Mr Mian’s current place of business, and furthermore that the claimant through his solicitors had taken reasonable steps in ascertaining that address as Mr Mian’s current business address.
“The public is entitled reasonably to assume that the information published by the SRA about a practising solicitor is correct… Once the address had been ascertained it was not reasonably necessary to make further enquiries of Mills & Reeve; the duty is to carry out reasonable steps, not to make every possible enquiry.”
Master Brightwell added that, even had he found there had not been good service, he would have made an order validating the steps taken by the claimant to bring the claim form to Mr Mian’s attention by emailing them to his solicitors within the period for service.