Taking care over the service of documents is important, if only to prevent an unnecessary appearance in court to determine whether or not a document was properly served.
Recently, a construction dispute was dealt with by an arbitrator. In order to express dissatisfaction with the arbitrator’s decision, the dissatisfied party had to serve a notice to this effect within four weeks of the arbitrator’s decision. Failure to do so would mean the arbitrator’s decision would be binding on both parties.
One party was dissatisfied and sent a notice on the 28th day to the other party’s solicitors, who forwarded it on to their client. The question arose as to whether the service was valid, as the contract contained a provision that a notice had to be served ‘at the last address notified by the recipient for receiving communications’. In view of the doubt this created, the notice was also served (after the four-week deadline) directly on the other party to the dispute.
It took a court appearance to determine if the solicitors’ office was ‘the last address notified by the recipient for receiving communications’. Fortunately, the court decided that the service to the solicitors was ‘good service’, so the issue of whether the subsequent (late) notice should be accepted did not have to be argued.
The moral of the story is to take care when serving notices – and not to leave everything until the last minute.