Claimants in a negligence claim against a surveyor lost an application in the High Court this month concerning expert evidence.
The decision in Wattret & Anor v Thomas Sands Consulting Ltd  EWHC 3455 (TCC) illustrates when expert evidence is necessary in a professional negligence claim.
The Claimants Mr and Mrs Wattret are the owners of a sizeable home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
The background is that Mr and Mrs Wattret found themselves in dispute with their builders about building works carried out at the property. Mr and Mrs Wattret sought advice about the building dispute not from solicitors, but from a firm of chartered quantity surveyors with expertise in quantity surveying and dispute resolution services relating to construction matters (the Defendant).
The building dispute escalated into arbitration proceedings, did not settle and ended up before an arbitrator, who found in favour of the builders. Mr and Mrs Wattret were required to pay an undisclosed amount to the builders and, no doubt, the arbitrator’s costs, the builders’ professional costs and of course the Defendant’s costs.
The claimants are not happy with the advice and representation they received from the quantity surveyors: they consider that had they been properly advised the building dispute could have cost them up to £1.2 million less. They have issued proceedings against the Defendant, who denies negligence.
It has long been established that a professional negligence claim of this type will fail if it is not supported by expert evidence, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
It is normal practice therefore for solicitors for both claimants and defendants to obtain expert evidence and, if court proceedings are issued, to ask the court for permission to rely on the evidence.
In this case the claimants (or their solicitors) took the unusual decision to try to pursue the claim without expert evidence and to oppose the defendant’s application to call expert evidence.
Not surprisingly perhaps, arguments advanced by the claimants’ lawyers were rejected and the court found in favour of the quantity surveyors, deciding that expert evidence was necessary.
Making a negligence claim against a surveyor without supporting expert evidence is a highly risky strategy once court proceedings are issued: if the claim fails, the claimant (or the claimant’s insurers if there are any) normally has to pay the defendant’s legal costs, which could be substantial, and usually his/her own legal costs.
At CAP LAW Solicitors, we specialise exclusively in providing advice and assistance to claimants who have been let down by surveyors, architects, solicitors and the like. If you have suffered financially as a result of poor professional advice, to find out how we can help you call now on 0330 050 5254 or, out of office hours, fill in our enquiry form .
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