A claim for professional negligence has been upheld on appeal against a client’s solicitors for failing to provide clear advice in a manner, which would have made it unnecessary for a further outstanding important claim to be made.
Following an initial successful claim for damages caused by vibration “white finger”, the solicitor’s client found he needed to make a subsequent claim for “loss of earnings” and for “services”, i.e. - the help needed due to an inability to carry out domestic tasks caused by the injury.
The client also made a further claim for professional negligence against his solicitors, which prompted the county court judge to level criticism at the firm for the lack of personal contact with their client. Instead, they relied upon sending ‘standardised’ letters and questionnaires.
However, the client was unable to fully understand the contents of the letters and failed to complete three questions in the initial questionnaire. The judge said the client’s leaving of the boxes blank should have triggered a response from the firm. In addition, the solicitors had missed two opportunities to establish “the full nature of the claim” when speaking with their client on the phone.
The solicitor’s firm appealed the decision on the basis that their client had understood the advice on the settlement based on three letters sent to him. In their defence, the solicitors also cited “financial constraints” on their client services, an argument dismissed by the judge as being too overly concerned about their rising costs, which “prevented more searching questions being made of their client.”
The judge said, “‘I reject the notion that a solicitor should feel inhibited from ensuring that his client has understood advice given to him by the consideration that so ensuring might generate a further fee payable by the client.”