Stepping into someone else’s shoes: How to substitute parties in legal proceeding
I recently received an enquiry asking whether it is possible to ‘transfer’ a Court claim from one person to another. In summary, the step to be taken would be to change the name of the Claimant where the property to which the Court proceedings related had been sold to a new owner.
This is not a very common scenario and, in fact, this particular case will require further steps to be taken. However, asking for someone else to be substituted into a Court claim is certainly possible.
What is substitution?
In most Court proceedings, but not all, there will be two main parties to a claim: the Claimant who will be bringing the claim to Court, and the Defendant. Sometimes there may also be multiple Claimants and/or Defendants.
If something happens that means that one of those parties can no longer be part of the proceedings, then it is possible to substitute in a new party.
When might this happen?
The Civil Procedure Rules or CPR (the “Rules”), which govern all civil Court matters, set out the different bases upon which it may become necessary to substitute a party. Some examples include where a party has died or where the interest or liability of a party has transferred to someone else (such as in the case above where the property was transferred to a new owner).
What do I need to do?
In order to substitute a party into legal proceedings, you would need to make an application to the Court. The Rules set out that the Court’s permission is required for substitution to take place unless the claim form has not already been served.
Where a party dies, there is a specific part of the rules which applies. Depending on the circumstances, the Court may simply allow the Claim to proceed and the deceased’s personal representative of their estate may automatically step into the deceased’s shoes; however, this may not always be the case.
If an application is necessary, it is possible that the Court will either deal with the matter by reviewing the papers or will ask the parties to attend a hearing, where a decision will be made.
Whilst navigating them is second nature to our Litigation & Dispute Resolution solicitors, the Rules may appear more complicated to those who do not regularly deal with Court proceedings. It’s therefore very important that you seek the right advice first. Breaching the Rules can potentially lead to significant consequences, such as striking out or costs sanctions.
If you are considering potential legal action or are facing Court proceedings, get in touch with our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team, who will guide through the process of resolving your dispute.