Burnetts' professional negligence practice is led by Patricia Hall who is a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association. Typically Patricia represents clients bringing claims against solicitors and surveyors, but she also advises on claims against architects, accountants and other professionals.
Claims against solicitors
Examples of claims against solicitors in a private client context include cases where solicitors have failed to ensure that the property which the client was purchasing had planning permission to cover its intended use. For example, a couple who bought a property in the Lake District found that it could only be occupied by the people who were already resident in the locality, which did not apply to them; worse still, they had paid full price for it, but, with the local occupancy restriction, it was worth very much less.
Another couple bought one half of a house which had been split into two without planning permission, to find themselves facing an enforcement notice form the local authority prohibiting them from living there.
Patricia has also brought four separate claims against different solicitors for four householders who had bought properties in a development which did not have an adequately sized septic tank. The solicitors had all failed to spot tell-tale warning signs in the answers to pre-contract enquiries, with the result that Patricia’s clients were able to obtain the funds needed to contribute to the cost of a new system from their former solicitors’ insurers.
In another case solicitors had, without properly assessing the prospects of success, allowed the clients to become embroiled in a Land Registry adjudication; the adjudication was lost, and the clients were ordered to pay a four figure sum in respect of costs, which we were able to recover from the former solicitors.
In the family context, we were able to recover unpaid maintenance from former solicitors who had given negligent advice regarding enforcement, and, in a separate case, we were able to recover damages where former solicitors had failed to advise that the client’s father, who had loaned money to his daughter to pay the mortgage, should secure the loan by a charge in favour of himself, and had also failed to deal with the process of mutual disclosure of documents effectively.
Claims against surveyors
Examples of claims brought against valuers/surveyors included a case where the surveyors failed to notice that the construction of a roof was non-traditional and structurally inadequate, and another case where the surveyor did not notice that a house was of “Airey construction”, a post-war method of building houses quickly which is prone to inevitable decay unless expensive repairs are carried out.
"No win no fee"
Professional negligence claims are sometimes suitable for conditional fee arrangements (“no win no fee”), but it is always necessary to investigate the merits of the case on the normal pay as you go basis first.