Yes, it would seem that this does sometimes happen.
We have reported, for example, on the High Court’s decision in Jerrard v Blyth and others, which considered the status of a claim which had not been served. In the judgment, it is stated that “there is unhappily a lacuna in the CPR”, and an indemnity costs order was ultimately made against the claimant.
If a claim form has been issued but not served, the defendant can serve a notice on the claimant “requiring him to serve the claim form or discontinue the claim” (see CPR 7.7). However, if the defendant hasn’t been notified that it’s been sued, how would it even know to consider serving such a notice? That’s a good question.
If a defendant has been sued and it doesn’t know anything about the court proceedings, perhaps ignorance is bliss. There’s probably something in that, unless of course the claimant later enters judgment against the defendant. Maybe that’s why, on a related issue, the government has announced a consultation on ways to help protect consumers from unknown court debt claims. It will be fascinating to see whether the law is changed to place more obligations on claimants when they issue proceedings.