Two bites of the apple - limitation in professional negligence cases
Businesses and individuals are becoming more and more reliant on their professional advisors to guide them and represent their interests, but when the professional advisors get it wrong they should expect to be held to account.
Our specialist team of litigators have extensive experience in acting for claimants in claims against professional advisors and are ranked in The Legal 500 as experts in this field.
We conduct high value and complex claims on behalf of claimants (often through referrals from other professionals) for negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and misrepresentation in the following areas:
We have particular expertise in dealing with cases where there are allegations of fraud and professional negligence claims involving trusts and estates.
We employ a wide range of methods to help promote early settlement where this is possible. However, if a resolution cannot be found, we engage in and manage litigation as pro-actively, efficiently and cost effectively as possible to ensure success for our clients at trial.
Professionals will usually have the benefit of professional indemnity insurance so that, assuming liability is established, claimants will be able to recover some or all of their loss and the majority of their legal costs of bringing the claim. In any event, we provide our clients with clear advice about costs and the various ways of funding a professional negligence claim, alongside strategic and commercial advice at every step of the case.
Partner and Head of Department
Kingsley Napley’s professional liability team has been growing in profile over recent years. It covers a broad range of professionals. Members of the team demonstrate acute understanding of the relevant law and pursue a careful strategy sensitive to the requirements of professionals and their insurers."
The Legal 500 UK, 2021
A reputable law firm with a good reputation."
The Legal 500 UK, 2021
The team is a cohesive unit with members being able to take the lead at different times with no drop in the level of skill and service"
The Legal 500, 2020
Richard Foss and Mary Young were excellent in dealing with an ever changing case and were both very extremely professional in sometimes challenging circumstances"
The Legal 500, 2020
The strong team at Kingsley Napley LLP acts for entrepreneurs, high-net-worth individuals and corporate clients in claims involving solicitors, accountants, IFAs, trustees, and property and construction professionals."
The Legal 500, 2019
It also stands out for its experience in combined probate and professional negligence disputes"
The Legal 500, 2019
sensible, realistic view of cases - seizing only the points worth arguing"
Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the Legal Profession
The recent Court of Appeal decision in Lillo Sciortino vs Marc Beaumont  EWCA Civ 786 provides useful guidance on limitation in professional negligence claims and confirms that a barrister who gave two pieces of negligent advice in respect of the same matter could be sued even though the claim in respect of the first piece of advice was out of time and statute-barred.
The long awaited Supreme Court decision of Manchester Building Society v Grant Thornton provides some much needed and useful clarification on what constitutes and amounts to “negligent” advice.
When an individual instructs a solicitor, they may research and make various enquiries to establish which solicitor is best suited to their matter, seeking to find an expert in that field. Solicitors frequently instruct barristers (counsel) as part of their client’s legal team to provide advocacy and additional expertise. Solicitors often rely on advice from counsel when advising clients. Whilst a solicitor is entitled to rely on counsel’s advice, and the more specialist the nature of the advice the more reasonable reliance will be, in doing so they need to properly consider that advice rather than simply accepting the advice without further scrutiny.
Usually, the scope of duty of care between a solicitor and a client will be set out in writing in an engagement letter, but there are some circumstances in which a solicitor may assume duties to someone other than their client, which can create problems if that party is to suffer a loss. In those circumstances, a key question is whether a solicitor owes the third party a duty of care.
One of the questions we are often asked is whether an individual’s will can be amended after their death if it doesn’t reflect their intentions. This is sometimes possible under a process known as rectification, although the circumstances in which rectification is available are limited. A claim for rectification was recently considered by the court at the end of 2020 in the case of Barrett v Hammond & others.
This blog examines some of the issues which arise from giving incorrect professional advice, or failing to give advice, and sets out some practical tips to identify when professional negligence claims may arise.
Accounting firms should be bracing themselves for a rise in professional negligence claims as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Solicitors and barristers owe a duty to their clients to act with reasonable care and skill at all times, not least when conducting settlement negotiations and providing advice on settlement. With the majority of claims settling outside of court, common complaints of negligence in this area include giving incorrect or negligent advice about settlement offers, failing to properly assess the value of the claim or advising a client to “under settle” a claim.
All professionals are under a duty to exercise skill and care when acting for clients. In particular, a professional is judged by the standard of a reasonably competent professional specialising in the area in which they hold themselves out as having expertise in. If the professional fails in this duty then there could be a potential claim for negligence.
Delay is a common complaint in professional negligence claims against solicitors in the context of wills and probate. For example, If a client is in poor health or advanced old age and wants to create or update their will, they might instruct a solicitor to assist with this. If the client dies before the new will can be prepared and/or executed, the beneficiaries who would have inherited, had the will been put in place before the client’s death, may look to bring a professional negligence claim against the solicitor if there has been undue delay by the solicitor in preparing the will.
Solicitors in any field of practice are under a duty to exercise reasonable care and skill when acting for clients. In wills and probate practice, that duty also extends to the beneficiaries of a testator. If the solicitor has acted in breach of that duty, which causes loss to the client or their beneficiaries, this could form the basis for a professional negligence claim against the solicitor.
A professional has a duty to exercise “reasonable care and skill” when dealing with their clients. Negligence claims against solicitors can arise for all manner of reasons. Katherine provides some examples of how a solicitor's actions within the remit of wills and estates may give rise to professional negligence.
The Supreme Court case of Edwards (on behalf of the estate of the late Thomas Arthur Watkins) v Hugh James Ford Simey (A Firm)  UKSC 54 provides useful insight in professional negligence cases as to how the Courts approach the relevance of “new” evidence i.e. evidence which was not available at the time of the underlying matter, in loss of chance cases.
When a client choses to retain the services of a solicitor (or other professional person) they are relying on their specialist expertise to help them get the best possible outcome. A professional has a duty to exercise “reasonable care and skill” when dealing with their clients. A failure to meet this standard, giving rise to a mistake that a reasonable professional person working in the same field would not have made, could give rise to a negligence claim if the client has suffered a financial loss as a consequence of the mistake.
(1) Playboy Club London ltd (2) London Clubs International Ltd (3)Burlington Street Services Ltd v Bianca Nazionale Del Lavoro Lavoro Spa  EWHC 2613
When X arrived in London he applied for a cheque-cashing facility in order to play in the Playboy Club London Limited (“the Club”). The Club sought a reference as to X's creditworthiness. To preserve customer confidentiality, the Club made the request through a related company, the third claimant (S). The reference request was addressed to the manager of Banca Nazionale di Lavoro SPA (“the Bank”). A response, purporting to be from one of the Bank's employees (G), stated that X had an account and was trustworthy to the extent of £1.6 million in any one week. In fact, X's balance had always been nil.
Gary Barlow and two fellow Take That singers have found themselves in the spotlight this week after a judge ruled the musicians had invested in a scheme designed for tax avoidance purposes. Not only may they have to pay back millions of pounds in tax after the tribunal ruling but they have also suffered considerable reputational damage as a result.
This article first appeared in MusicWeek.
According to a provisional report prepared by Lord Justice Briggs, Chancery Division Masters are spending 14% of their time on professional negligence claims involving solicitors compared to 13% on business fraud cases. Ryan Mowat reviews the trends in professional negligence claims so far in 2013.
Kate Paley discusses a recent case against a solicitor, who delayed in carrying out the testator’s instructions to alter her Will before she died.
Given the recent and extensive amendments to the CPR, it may be useful for lawyers to remind themselves of the deadlines that apply when issuing and serving proceedings.
Negligence claims against professionals, such as financial advisors, solicitors, accountants and surveyors have been on the rise in recent years, and numbers are expected to continue to grow. This is due to an increased reliance on the advice of professionals (in both a personal and business context), claimants’ raised awareness of their legal rights, and the increasingly complex nature of work carried out. Further, in tough economic times, financial losses are often more evident.
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