Rule number one of civil litigation is to make sure that you sue the right defendant. As one case showed, however, the complexity of modern corporate structures means that professional advice is needed to select the correct target.
When a shop lease came to an end, the landlord launched proceedings with a view to making the tenant pay for dilapidations to the premises. The tenant identified in the lease had, during the course of the tenancy, both changed its name and merged with another company. The other company was named as defendant to the action.
The landlord subsequently accepted that the lease had not been assigned to the company and that it had sued the wrong defendant. It applied to amend its case to correct the error, but was met by resistance from the company, which argued that the proceedings should be struck out.
In granting the landlord’s application, the Court noted that the company, or solicitors acting on its behalf, had taken the lead in negotiating the surrender of the lease and the grant of a new one. By that time, the company was in physical occupation of the premises and the Court was satisfied that it had mistakenly been made the defendant in the proceedings as a result of its own actions.