In the recent High Court case of Seery v Leathes Prior (A Firm) Judge Sir David Eadya judge has thrown out a professional negligence claim lodged against a law firm by a former client.
On the 24th January 2017, the Judge said "he had ‘no alternative’ but to dismiss the claim, brought by the former client against a full-services firm".
The former client brought the claim against the firm after a settlement agreement that stemmed from a dispute with two colleagues.
Among the claims made by the Claimant was that the Solicitor with conduct of the matter could have encouraged litigation, which might have led to a more favourable outcome. However, the judgment said that although the option would have been considered by the firm, it would have been ‘a costly, acrimonious, long-drawn-out fight’, which was exactly what the former client wanted to avoid.
Why the claim failed
The Court said there was no evidence that the former client would have received a better outcome had he been encouraged to sue.
Importantly, the former client also suggested that he had suffered from stress and was unable to take on board the legal advice he was given, in particular, that which he had previously received from his former Solicitors (which pre-dated the defendant firm).
However, the Court said the former client did not tell his Solicitor at the time that he did not understand the advice and that much of the advice was in writing and could have been re-read at any time.
He added that a Solicitor will have fulfilled his duty of care to his client if he gives an explanation in terms the client reasonably appears to him to be able to understand, and to have understood, even if the client later alleges that he did not in fact understand what was said.
Concluding, the Court said that there was nothing to be gained by exploring the case on contributory negligence by the former client, or entering further into the arguments about expert evidence, an exercise which would have been in its view too speculative to have been of much practical use anyway. The Court added that the former client received a ‘very good service from the firm in the difficult circumstances in which he found himself’.
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