Couple Pay for Pursuing 'Speculative' Professional Negligence Claim

29th April 2020 By

Those who engage in speculative litigation on the basis of weak evidence can expect to be hit hard in the pocket. In a case on point, a couple who sued a friendly architect after she provided them with free assistance in re-landscaping their garden found themselves on the receiving end of eye-watering legal costs bills.

The couple and the architect were friends and former neighbours. She offered to help them gratuitously in transforming their garden. After the project was blighted by cost overruns and other difficulties, the couple launched professional negligence proceedings against her, claiming about £300,000 in damages.

Following a preliminary hearing, a judge found that, although there was no contract between them, the architect owed the couple a duty of care. That decision was later upheld by the Court of Appeal. The latter ruling, however, made plain that the duty of care only related to professional services the architect had actually provided and that she could have no liability in respect of any omissions.

Following a subsequent trial of the action, the couple’s claim was dismissed in its entirety on the basis that the architect had in fact had little involvement in the project and had not been negligent. The couple were ordered to pay her legal costs – which were by then already estimated at over £700,000 – on the standard basis.

Upholding the architect’s challenge to that ruling, the Court of Appeal found the couple liable to pay a substantial proportion of her costs, including the costs of the trial, on the punitive indemnity basis. Following receipt of the Court’s decision on the duty of care issue, the couple should have realised that their remaining claims against the architect were so weak and speculative that they should not be pursued any further. They had also unreasonably refused her offer, made early on in the proceedings, to settle their claim for £25,000.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Challenge to Will's Validity Rejected by High Court

12th April, 2024 By

The best way to ensure your assets will be distributed as you wish is to have your will professionally drafted by a qualified solicitor. In a recent case, a challenge to the validity of an elderly man's will was dismissed by the High Court. The man had previously made a will in 2011, leaving most of his estate equally to his three children. In 2018, by which time one of his sons had predeceased him, he made a further will, leaving the residue of his estate to his other son...

Defiance of Family Court Orders Will Always End Badly

10th April, 2024 By

Custodial sentences very rarely come into play in the family courts. Where there have been repeated breaches of court orders, however, judges may have little choice but to clamp down. This was illustrated in the High Court during committal proceedings that stemmed from a child custody dispute. The background to the case involved contested proceedings between the father and mother of a young child. These concluded with a court order establishing that the child – a daughter – would live with the mother. Three months later the daughter travelled with...

Claim for SDLT Relief on Annex Unsuccessful

8th April, 2024 By

When buying a property consisting of more than one residence, it may be possible to claim multiple dwellings relief (MDR) against Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). However, there are certain conditions that must be met for an MDR claim to succeed, as a recent case illustrates. A property was purchased for £1.8 million. Prior to the purchase, the buyer had agreed with the seller that he would be allowed to carry out works to construct a self-contained annex at the property. The buyer's SDLT return included a claim for MDR...

Divorce – Alleged Bigamy Raised in Financial Remedies Dispute

5th April, 2024 By

The issue of bigamy and its potential impact on a person's ability to seek financial remedies in a divorce came under the legal spotlight recently. A husband made an application to strike out his wife's financial remedies claim on the basis that she had committed bigamy and deceived him into a marriage when she knew she was not free to marry. This deceit, he claimed, was so egregious that, as a matter of public policy, she should be debarred from pursuing any claim for financial remedies against him. The husband based...