Claims Against Solicitors for Negligent Advice
Posted on 27th May 2021 at 12:33
Case Study One
We recently acted for a client in relation to a claim for professional negligence against their previous solicitors who acted for them in the purchase of their new home.
A short time after they had moved into their home there was a dispute with their neighbour which led to investigations into which of them owned the land immediately adjacent to our client’s home
Unfortunately, it turned out that the neighbour was the legal owner and our client had not been granted a right of access. As our client had to cross the adjacent piece of land to gain access to his home, this meant that his home was effectively land-locked.
Our client’s previous solicitors were negligent in failing to properly investigate title, identify the absence of a right of way and advise our client of the problems prior to completion. In the event we were able to obtain a substantial amount of compensation for our client as well as remedy the situation regarding a right of way across the adjacent land.
Whilst such cases are not common, when they do occur they can result in a great deal of worry and anxiety for purchasers.
Case Study Two
We successfully obtained damages for a client who had purchased a property only to find out later that her previous solicitors had failed to ensure that all of the property was transferred to her. It was only when she tried to sell the property that she became aware that part of the building she owned had been retained by the seller and so did not belong to her at all.
Both of these cases were settled out of court.
A Recent Court Case
In a recent Court case with very similar facts a Surrey law firm was ordered to pay damages to a Claimant for failing to tell him that part of the land he thought he had purchased had been retained by the seller. It only came to light that the Claimant did not own the whole of the land when he later came to sell it.
In order to sell the whole of his land the Claimant had to purchase that part of the land which had been retained by the seller at a cost of £800,000.00.
The Claimant was therefore awarded damages of £800,000.00 (the diminution in value as assessed by the Court). https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/surrey-firm-ordered-to-pay-800k-for-property-negligence
Another Recent Case
In another case a West Midlands law firm is being sued over alleged inadequate advice about a ground rent clause in a lease that doubles every five years. The Claimant bought a flat in London in 2011 for the purchase price of £170,000.000 as an investment. She claims that the law firm failed to tell her about the ground rent, which would increase to such an extent that in 50 years time it would costs £1,000,000.00 every five years – effectively rendering the property unsaleable.
The landlord can agree to change the terms of the lease, but in this case a payment of £100,000.00 for doing so is required.
Solicitors’ Duty of Care
It is a well-established principle in law that a solicitor owes a ‘duty of care’ to his or her client. The duty is to act with the same standard of care and skill to be expected from a reasonably competent member of their profession.
Fortunately, solicitors are obliged to carry professional indemnity insurance so that if they are found to have breached their duty of care (ie were negligent) then the Claimant will be able to obtain compensation from the solicitors’ insurers. The Claimant will also be entitled to claim any costs they have incurred as a result of the solicitors’ negligence, including legal costs.
There are strict time limits involved in professional negligence claims. Ordinarily, claims must be brought within 6 years of the date of the negligent act or omission. In other words, court proceedings must be issued at court within this time. As an example, if the negligence occurred on 1st April 2020 court proceedings must be issued on or before 30th March 2026.
Whilst this may seem like there is plenty of time to bring a professional negligence claim against your solicitor, there is usually a very extensive amount of work to be done within this timeframe to ensure that the claim is ready to take to court.
The work will include:-
• obtaining your solicitors’ file;
• gathering together all of the evidence;
• obtaining expert evidence if necessary (eg from a surveyor);
• calculating and advising on the amount of compensation that is likely to be awarded at court.
It is worth mentioning at this point that the vast majority of cases are settled and do not reach court. This is because liability (fault) is usually admitted in all but the most complex of cases, and equally quantum (the value of the claim) is usually assessed and agreed upon between the parties.
In some cases solicitors are required to retain their file of papers for a period of six years only, after which time their file will be destroyed, along with much of the evidence. It is therefore crucial that if you think you may have a claim against a law firm that you take legal advice as soon as you possibly can.
Other Professional Negligence Claims
Some cases are more straightforward than others, eg if your solicitor has missed a time limit and your case has been struck out by the court or has had to be abandoned for this reason then this would be negligence.
Similarly, if your solicitor failed to advise on costs and/or taking out insurance against your opponent’s costs which led to you being out of pocket then this can constitute negligence.
No Win No Fee
We will be able to tell you if we think you have a valid claim and if you do we will take your claim on a no win no fee basis. This means that if your claim does not succeed you will not have to pay our fees. Click here for further information: Professional Negligence - DSM Legal Solicitors - Warrington or call us on 01925 937070 – we offer a nationwide service.
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Tagged as: claims against solicitors, claims against solicitors for negligent advice, legal advice, negligence, solicitor, solicitor negligence, Warrington
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