The CPR allows a claim form to be amended prior to service without court permission, but does the amended claim form itself need to be sealed prior to service?
This was the issue considered by His Honour Judge Hacon in Cant v Hertz Corporation  EWHC 2627 (Ch). The claimant had worked on the basis that there was no such requirement, a position that Hacon J was not convinced the claimant had been wrong to take. However, a ‘nameless judge’, on reviewing the court file, had required the claimant to serve a sealed amended claim form – something it was unable to do within the four-month time period provided for in CPR 6. Hacon J allowed relief from sanctions applying the three stage test in Denton. (Denton v TH White  EWCA Civ 906)
There are no provisions in the CPR as to whether a claim form which had been amended prior to service needs to be resealed. As can be seen in this judgment, judges may differ in approach as to whether there is such a requirement. Further, it is arguable, given the requirements in Hills Contractors, that the amended claim form should be sealed. (Hills Contractors and Construction v Struth  EWHC 1693 (TCC)).
Practitioners should therefore make sure that any sealed claim form which is subsequently amended is brought back before the court to be sealed again prior to serving it on the defendant. In cases where this is not done and there is no time left to serve the sealed amended claim form following a defendant taking issue with service, there is a risk that a judge will not grant relief from sanctions and the claim could be struck out applying CPR 3.4(2). If there are no limitation issues, it is likely that a new claim form could be issued. However, that could be a costly exercise given the recent increase in court issue fees which is something to take into consideration.
If acting for a defendant in a case in which a non-sealed amended claim form is served, the pragmatic approach would be to request the claimant to re-serve a sealed copy as it is likely that relief from sanctions in such cases would be granted so long as there are no limitation issues.