Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 24, 2003

For the purpose of giving notice of the bringing of proceedings under s.152 Road Traffic Act 1988, the legal secretary to whom oral notice had been given was an appropriate person to receive that notice.Claimants' appeal from the decision of HH Judge Tetlow on 21 May 2002 to set aside judgment for the claimants ('N'). Following a road traffic accident in 1998, N obtained judgment in default against the other driver, and thereafter issued separate proceedings against the respondent insurer ('CIG'). A trainee solicitor acting on behalf of N contacted a legal secretary at the office of CIG's solicitors in order to obtain details about the other driver, and mentioned that the details were needed as N's solicitors were issuing proceedings. It was CIG's case that it had no liability to N as no proper notice had been given that satisfied s.152(1) Road Traffic Act 1988. The district judge held that adequate notice had been given and gave judgment in favour of N. The judge allowed CIG's appeal on the basis that the legal secretary had no authority to receive the communication of a notice from N's solicitors, and that the notice was not specific enough. CIG argued that the judge's decision should be upheld on the following basis: (i) it was not reasonable in the circumstances to give notice to a legal secretary; and (ii) the notice was insufficient as the trainee had not appreciated the importance of giving the notice and had not given more specific details.HELD: (1) A legal secretary was the sort of person to whom notice could be given. The judge was wrong to interfere with the district judge's decision that the legal secretary was an appropriate person. It was well within the legal secretary's authority and reasonable for her to receive the notice. (2) It was true that the focus of the telephone call was on obtaining details of the other driver, but equally it was made perfectly clear that proceedings were to be commenced. To be told that proceedings were about to be commenced was something that should ring bells. (3) This court exercised its discretion to set aside the judgment and made an order that CIG be added as a second defendant in proceedings.Appeal allowed. Orders made accordingly.

[2003] EWCA Civ 316