Professional Negligence: Client Fails in Action Against Soliciters
The well known Legal firm of Linklaters recently fell out with their client Levicom whom they had represented in an action against a contractor.
The contractor had made an early offer of settlement to Levicom which Levicom had refused. Levicom continued with their claim against the contractor, but subsequently settled for a lesser sum – substantially so – than the contractor had originally offered.
Levicom then turned on Linklaters suggesting that their advice on the first offer had been inadequate and that Linklaters should compensate them for the difference between the first offer and the figure at which the case subsequently settled.
Levicom suggested that the advice which they had received from Linklaters was too bullish as the prospects of success. Levicom suggested that this amounted to negligence on the part of Linklaters.
The Court found against Levicom, repeating the mantra that the solicitors were required by the law to provide advice which was up to the mark by comparison with the reasonably well informed and competent member of the profession. Members of the profession who fell within this bracket were likely to provide a range of opinions. Provided the opinion of Linklaters had fallen within that possible range of opinions, they had not been negligent. Their advice had fallen within that range.
There was also an allegation that the advice upon the quantum or value of the claim was inadequate. Whilst the Court found that Linklaters’ opinion on quantum was correct by the standards set out above, it found that the advice had not been communicated well enough so that Levicom were left with an over optimistic view of the value of their claim.
The Court therefore found that Levicom were entitled to have received a better standard of explanation of the advice.
This meant that the Court had to decide what loss, if any, could be proved by Levicom. In short the Court decided that Levicom could not show that even if the advice as to the value of the claim had been better communicated they would have accepted the first offer. Therefore they received nominal damages of just £5 and because Linklaters had effectively won the argument Linklaters were awarded their costs for having to defend the claim.
In the case the Court also commented upon the fact that Levicom were a “sophisticated client” and that had to be borne in mind when assessing the allegations against the solicitors. It would accordingly be too demanding to require a solicitor to identify and warn their client about every potential counter-argument when advising a sophisticated client.
Nigel Pepper is a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers’ Association and may be contacted on 01785 211411 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 August 2009
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)