The Court Of Appeal Clarifies When Multi-Party Claims Can Be Brought Using A Single Claim Form In England And Wales

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The Court of Appeal clarified the criteria for using a single claim form in multi-party claims under CPR 19.1 and 7.3. The decision emphasizes convenience in joint proceedings without additional restrictive tests, potentially influencing future litigation strategies.
UK Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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Bringing multi-party claims using a single claim form is becoming increasingly common, sharing the cost and risk of litigation between claimants. Over the past few years, the courts have considered the circumstances in which this is permissible and the Court of Appeal has now clarified the position in Morris and Ors v Williams & Co Solicitors.

When more than one claimant wishes to jointly bring a claim, they may seek to use a single claim form. Doing so may limit court fees and distribute the cost and risk of litigation. The Court of Appeal recently reviewed the case law on whether and when this would be allowed.

In Morris and Ors v Williams & Co Solicitors, the court outlined the circumstances in which a multi-party claim can be brought using a single claim form under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). This article discusses the evolution of the case law on this approach and the implications of the recent decision for those involved in or considering multi-party claims.

CPR 19.1 and 7.3

According to CPR 19.1, "Any number of claimants or defendants may be joined as parties to a claim." Therefore, there is no limit to the number of parties who may commence or defend a claim.

CPR 19.1 is subject to CPR 7.3, which provides that, "A claimant may use a single claim form to start all claims which can be conveniently disposed of in the same proceedings." This is commonly known as the "convenience test".

There has been litigation in recent years concerning the interpretation of these rules and the convenience test. In particular, the courts have considered the circumstances in which claims may be conveniently disposed of together.

The decision of the High Court in Abbott v Ministry of Defence

In Abbott and Ors v Ministry of Defence, the High Court provided a detailed review of the circumstances in which CPR 7.3 can be relied upon. In short, the High Court held that a common disposal of the claims must be shown to be convenient, by demonstrating that:

  1. There would be determination of common issues of "sufficient significance" of fact or law; and
  2. Their determination together constitutes "real progress" towards the final determination of each claim.

However, the Court of Appeal has now disapproved of the High Court's reasoning in Abbott.

The Court of Appeal's decision in Morris and Ors v Williams & Co Solicitors


This case relates to a claim brought by 134 claimants in a single form against their previous firm of solicitors. The claimants each sought damages for a breach of their (former) solicitors' duty to advise properly in relation to several investments.

In July 2023, the High Court followed Abbott, applying thosetests and dismissed the defendant's application to have the claim struck out on the grounds that it was an abuse of process, an obstruction to the just disposal of the proceedings, or that it failed to comply with CPR 7.3.

The Court of Appeal decision centred around the proper meaning of CPR 19.1 and 7.3, and in turn, the correctness of the Abbott decision.

The parties' submissions

The defendant argued that the case was incorrectly decided, as the language of CPR 19.1 and 7.3 was far more restrictive than interpreted by the High Court.

The claimants supported the Abbott decision, but argued that regardless of the applicable test, all claims could be conveniently disposed of in terms of CPR 7.3 in the circumstances.

The decision

Although the defendant's appeal was dismissed, the Court of Appeal held that the Abbott decision was wrong in law.

At the heart of the judgment was the assertion that the provisions of the CPR had to be interpreted considering the preceding Rules of the Supreme Court. In particular, Order 15 rule 4 permitted multi-party claims where "some common question of law or fact" arose.

It was held that the Abbott judgement erred in deciding that CPR 7.3 required the application of the tests described above, which unduly restricted the application of CPR 19.1. Instead, the natural meaning of the words should be applied:

"19.1 and 7.3 mean what they say. Any number of claimants or defendants may be joined as parties to proceedings, and claimants may use a single claim form to start all claims which can be conveniently disposed of in the same proceedings."

The court must judge what is convenient on the facts of every case. In the present case, it was held that the claims could be conveniently disposed of in the same proceedings.

Significantly, the Court of Appeal also invited the CPR Committee to consider whether it would have been "better and clearer" to carry over the wording of Order 15 rule 4 to the CPR.


With multi-party claims on the rise, this is an important decision for those interested or involved in similar litigation in England and Wales. The Court of Appeal has clarified the circumstances in which multiple claimants can bring a claim in one claim form, with the only test being whether all the claims can be conveniently disposed of in the same proceedings. There is no further test and no requirement to show that a determination of common issues would bind all or most of the claimants.

It will be interesting to see whether the CPR Committee act on the Court of Appeal's prompt to reconsider whether the wording of Order 15 rule 4 ought to have been carried over. The CPR may well be updated in the future.

This article was co-authored by Paralegal Catherine Templeton.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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