January 10, 2014

‘Plebgate’ Appeal and Potential Professional Negligence Claims

The courts have expressed a clear zero tolerance approach to solicitors who fail to comply with court orders following extensive changes in April 2013 to the way claims are managed and funded in England and Wales.   It is predicted that the impact on solicitors’ failure to comply with court orders could lead to an increase in professional negligence claims in the future.

Our Professional Negligence Team at RWK Goodman often hear from individuals and businesses who have lost trust and confidence in their solicitors ability to handle their claim, or worse, lost their claim, due to their litigation being mishandled.  The courts reaction to these types of claims is clear; they will simply not tolerate solicitors’ failure to comply with court orders.

The impact on solicitors

Solicitors are required to prepare ‘budgets’ in order to manage their costs, this gives the court an up-front estimation of their likely costs for each stage of litigation.

In the ‘Plebgate’ case, Mitchell’s solicitors failed to file their cost budget in time and subsequently the Judge ruled that they should not be excused.  The consequence of this decision means that even if Mitchell wins his case he will still have to pay all of his own legal costs, which are estimated to be in the region of £500,000.

Despite his solicitors appealing the decision and giving reasons for their delay, which included that they were a small firm, two of their trainee solicitors were on maternity leave and the only other person qualified to prepare the budget was busy with other work, the Court of Appeal upheld their decision, saying that they would only be prepared to forgive the solicitor’s failures in exceptional circumstances, such as suffering from a debilitating illness or being involved in an accident.

The impact on clients

Undoubtedly Mitchell will be looking to sue his solicitors for Professional Negligence.  This case acts as a stark warning for all lawyers about the court’s approach to such failures going forward and demonstrates the potential increase for clients to make professional negligence claims in the future.

If you have any concerns in relation to poor legal advice that you would like to discuss, please contact our Professional Negligence Team for further advice.

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