Court of appeal sounds the alarm bells for professional indemnity claims
In the case of Susan Berney v Thomas Saul (T/A Thomas Saul & Co) 2013 the Court of Appeal has given judgment in a professional indemnity case arising out of a personal injury claim. The judgment will do nothing to quell the worry amongst professional indemnity insurers (and some solicitors) that there is likely to be an increase in the number of professional negligence claims against solicitors arising from the way in which historic personal injury cases have been conducted.
In this case Berney had instructed Thomas Saul in 1999 to act for her in relation to a personal injury claim arising from a road traffic accident. Liability was accepted by the motor insurers. In 2002, Thomas Saul issued a claim form but named the wrong defendant. The claim form was amended after the expiry of the limitation period but proper particulars of claim were not served or filed. Berney instructed new solicitors in 2004. Her claim was settled but at a level which was said to have taken into account the fact that the claim was likely to be struck out for delay. Berney then brought a claim against Thomas Saul in 2011 alleging that she would have recovered far more in damages had her claim been dealt with properly.
Thomas Saul in this case argued that Berney's claim was out of time. Berney argued that limitation ran from the date her RTA claim was settled and accordingly her professional negligence claim was in time. The Court of Appeal agreed with Berney.
Trethowans LLP reported in December last year on the high profile case of Kenny Jordan. In the wake of that case Insurers believe that some law firms reliance on under-qualified staff, a lack of face to face contact with clients and a failure to understand medical reports all contribute to a trend of increasing numbers of claims. Changes to litigation funding are likely to increase financial pressures further.
Trethowans LLP have specialist teams dealing with insurance litigation and personal injury claims and provide a face to face and tailored service to all clients.