Test for appropriateness of multiple claimants commencing claim under single claim form, simplified

The Court of Appeal has recently refused to strike-out a negligence claim brought by multiple  claimants against their former solicitors that was commenced under a single claim form. The judgment in Morris v Williams & Co Solicitors [2024] EWCA Civ 376 is a welcome clarification of the test for when it is appropriate for multiple claimants to commence a claim in such a way. 

The decision will be good news for large claimant groups with common issues and has superseded the earlier more prescriptive decision in Abbott v Ministry of Defence [2023] EWHC 1475 (KB), [2023] 1 WLR 4002.


This case concerns 134 claimants who are bringing a claim against their former solicitors in relation to negligent advice regarding their investments in 9 separate property development projects promoted by the same group of companies. The claimants contended that the defendant solicitors failed to warn of the risks of completion of the developments not taking place, and of the dissipation of their investment deposits in the meantime. All the claimants commenced their claim on a single claim form. 

The defendant solicitors applied to strike out the claim form on the basis that making the claim in this way was either an abuse of process or an obstruction to the just disposal of the proceedings. The defendant also contended that the claim form did not comply with CPR Part 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”. 

The High Court dismissed the defendant’s application to strike out the claim form. In doing so, the Court applied the test for convenient disposal which had been formulated in the earlier case of Abbott. We covered the initial decision in Abbott in a previous Perspective. Abbott was subsequently appealed from the Divisional Court to the High Court (with no right of appeal to the Court of Appeal), where the High Court determined that it will be convenient to dispose of all claims brought on a single claim form if the ‘real progress’ test is met. In the Abbott case, the High Court had decided that the test will be met where there are likely to be common issues of sufficient significance that the determination of those common issues would constitute real progress towards finally determining each claim in a set of claims.

In Morris v Williams & Co Solicitors, the defendant solicitors then appealed the High Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal. 


The Court of Appeal emphasised the importance of the wording both of CPR 7.3 and of CPR 19.1, which provides that “any number of claimants or defendants may be joined as parties to a claim”.

The Court found that it was clear that a reference to “a claimant” under CPR 7.3 could be read under s 6(c) of the Interpretation Act 1978 as including the plural, and that in the context of CPR 19.1 “a claim” meant “proceedings” rather than “a cause of action”.

The Court also found that none of tests as set out in Abbott were appropriate and instead, held that CPR 19.1 and 7.3 must be “construed as meaning 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”.  With that in mind, the Court held that what is convenient must be determined according to the facts of each case.

The Court noted that the matters considered in Abbott could be relevant to whether it was convenient to bring claims in a single claim form, but the relevant factors would vary depending on the case.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeal determined that there is no exclusionary rule of real progress (where there are significant common issues amongst the claims which, once determined, would constitute real progress towards final determination), real significance (whether there is sufficient commonality for a decision to be made of real significance for all the rest) or otherwise and that the court will determine what is convenient according to the facts of every case. Many matters will be relevant to that question. 

In the present case, the Court did not accept that it was inconvenient or unfair for the claimants’ claims to be grouped together in one claim form. The Court did, however, accept that defendants to group actions initiated by a single claim form may face potential unfairness in the absence of active case management.  However, the Court commented that “every possible step should be taken in such a situation to ensure that each claimant’s case is properly explained so that the defendant knows the case it has to meet, and so as to facilitate early dispute resolution.

The Court of Appeal accordingly declined to strike-out the claims against the defendant solicitors, allowing the 134 claimants to proceed to bring their claims on a single claim form. 


This important decision will be welcomed by large groups of claimants wishing to pursue their claims together.  Instead of having to satisfy the requirements previously promulgated by the Abbott decision, claimants will simply need to satisfy the Court that it is convenient for their claims to be heard together, in accordance with the plain English meaning of the word. Claimant groups may wish to pursue their claims together for a vast variety of reasons, with costs being the most obvious. This judgment will accordingly allow better access to justice for future claimants who may not otherwise be able to pursue their claims.