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Professional Negligence claims can be made when a client has been let down by a professional person they put their trust in, leaving them suffering a financial loss. These claims require expert advice and can be quite complex to nagivate.

 

The following case study gives an overview of a case where a family persued a professional negligence claim against a firm of solicitors dealing with a medical negligence matter.

 

Mr Hanbury had worked as an insulation engineer for many years. Sadly, he developed and was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly before he passed away in January 2010. The post-mortem examination determined that the cause of Mr Hanbury’s death was industrial disease as a result of exposure to asbestos material. Soon after the inquest in to his death, Mr Hanbury’s family instructed Hugh James Solicitors in relation to a claim for industrial disease.

 

The solicitors agreed to act under a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement in August 2010 and indicated that they believed the claim had reasonable prospects of succeeding, although there were certain aspects of the claim which were problematic. A medical report was obtained in September 2012 which was, unfortunately, unsupportive. However, the solicitor had not sent to the medical expert crucial documents which were produced through the course of Mr Hanbury’s post-mortem. In view of the solicitor’s negative advice founded upon the unsupportive expert’s opinion, Mr Hanbury’s family agreed not to pursue the claim any further. Claims for industrial disease must be brought within 3 years, so the ability to bring that claim was lost only around 3 months after the medical evidence was produced.

 

Mr Hanbury’s family then brought a claim against the solicitors for professional negligence, alleging that they had failed to 1) provide all relevant documentation to the medical expert and 2) failed to notice upon reviewing the medical evidence that such relevant documentation had not been considered. By contrast, the solicitors argued that the claim for industrial disease would not have succeeded in any event and for reasons unconnected to the medical evidence.

The professional negligence claim proceeded to trial where the original medical expert provided witness evidence that indeed he had not been provided with certain documents and, had those documents been produced, that he would have reached an entirely different, and more importantly supportive, view that Mr Hanbury had died because of his industrial disease-related cancer. By the end of the trial, although the solicitors had accepted that they had breached their duty of care, they still denied that this had caused any loss to be suffered.

 

The Court determined that the total value of Mr Hanbury’s industrial disease claim would have been in excess of £217,000. However, a loss of opportunity reduction had to be applied to reflect that fact that, as with any claim, a positive outcome was by no means guaranteed. Accordingly, the final amount awarded was around £104,000.

 

This case highlights the great importance in ensuring that experts are fully and properly instructed with all relevant documentation being made available. It is clear to see that a failure to do so can have a catastrophic outcome on any advice as to whether a potential claim is viable or not. This decision does, however, presently remain open to an appeal.

 

If you think you may have a claim against a solicitor, or any other professional person, then please get in touch with Andrew Maidment, Associate Solicitor & Head of Professional Negligence on 01256 844888 or email andrew.maidment@lambbrooks.com

 

 

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.