Legal Updates

Commercial Law – Solicitors Negligence – Litigation – Apportionment of Contribution

The case of Pritchard Joyce & Hinds v Batcup and Another [2008], involved a determination on the apportionment of damages for solicitor’s negligence. The claimant in this case was a firm of solicitors who had settled a claim for negligence brought against it. The claim for negligence was brought by one of its clients, Mr and Mrs F (“FF”).

The defendants were leading and junior counsel and were also instructed by FF in relation to the same matter. However, FF did not bring proceedings against them.

The negligence alleged by FF against the claimant consisted of a failure to advise them of the time limit applicable to a potential clam against their previous solicitors (“W”). The claimant argued that the defendants were responsible for the same loss and they therefore brought proceedings seeking a contribution from the defendants pursuant to s.1 of the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.

The court held that on the facts of the case, there was no difference between the extent of contribution of the negligence of the claimant and defendant. The crucial question to be determined by the court was the extent of their relative responsibilities for that negligence.

It was decided that counsel would have to bear the greater share of the blame. The defendants failed to advise FF of the potential claim against W and did not suitably explain the effect of the time limit. The claimant, as solicitors, looked to the defendants for authoritative guidance on the major strategic questions concerning the litigation and its associated issues.

It was therefore held that the apportionment of contribution would be 75% to the defendants and 25% to the claimants.

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© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

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