Raleys Solicitors v Barnaby  EWCA Civ 686 – negligent solicitors – under-settlement of industrial disease VWF claim – negligent advice – no advice about value of services claim – poor advice – wrong advice – damages for lost chance
This week the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Raleys Solicitors against an earlier County Court finding that the solicitors were negligent for under-settling a miner’s industrial disease (vibration white finger ‘VWF’) claim.
The decision could open the floodgates for similar professional negligence claims against solicitors to be made.
Mr Barnaby worked as a miner for British Coal and its successor for nearly 20 years. At work he used vibratory tools and alleged that he developed VWF as a result.
Raleys acted for Mr Barnaby in his industrial injury claim against British Coal, which was made through a government scheme. He recovered just over £10,000 as compensation for two things, firstly pain, suffering and loss of amenity and secondly, disadvantage/handicap on the labour market.
He could also have claimed damages for services/assistance provided by helpers with tasks that he was allegedly no longer able to do, such as gardening, DIY, decorating, window cleaning, car washing and car maintenance. Raleys did not tell him how much that part of the claim might be worth and wrongly advised him that, if he wanted to pursue that part of the claim, he would have to wait longer before he received most of his compensation.
The services claim could have been worth £7900. The County Court judge found that Raleys were negligent for failing to give certain advice and for giving wrong advice. The judge went on to consider what is likely to have happened had proper advice been given: it considered that he would have had good prospects of succeeding with the services claim and awarded him 75% of £7900 for the lost chance.
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