Professional liability claims

What is professional liability? It is common to refer to “professional negligence”. In fact the textbooks often refer to “professional liability” to emphasise that the liability of professionals often goes wider than negligence, for example including fraud, breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.

I have been specialising in professional liability claims since I completed my training in 2001. 4 New Square is consistently rated as the leading set of chambers for professional liability work and I am rated as a leading junior in the field by the Legal 500 directory and by Chambers and Partners.

About half of my work in this field involves acting for clients who are suing, or thinking of suing, their former professional advisers. They may be individuals, small businesses or larger institutions such as banks or building societies.

The other half of my work involves acting for professionals who are facing a claim, and usually, their professional indemnity insurers.

I frequently act in claims against solicitors and barristers, auditors and accountants, valuers and surveyors, independent financial advisers, receivers, insolvency practitioners, insurance brokers, and other professionals. I do not act in clinical negligence cases.

Acting both for claimants and defendants gives me a good insight into the pressures faced by parties on different sides to litigation and familiarity with their tactics.

Often professional negligence complaints and claims go hand in hand with disputes about professional fees. As a specialist cost barrister I am well placed to deal with disputed about fees. Often direct access clients instruct me to review both whether they may have a professional liability claim and whether the fees can be challenged. Having a specialist barrister to back you up when you are in a disagreement with a former professional adviser can boost your credibility and make all the difference in getting the professional to take your grievance seriously.

Recent professional liability claims

  • acting for a building society suing a valuer in a claim concerning dozens of allegedly negligent mortgage valuations;
  • acting for a workman in a claim against his former solicitor and barrister for failing to advance his personal injury claim effectively;
  • assisting a husband and wife in suing an independent financial adviser who advised them to transfer their investments out of a company pension scheme;
  • acting in several professional liability cases for purchasers who were let down by their solicitors when they sought to acquire longer leases of their properties; procedural mistakes by the solicitors meant that applications were delayed, meaning that the property purchasers had to pay increased premiums and incur additional costs;
  • acting in a number of claims by owners of small businesses against their solicitors, for negligently handling the applications to renew their business tenancies, meaning that the businesses lost their right to obtain a new tenancy;
  • acting for a landowner on a professional liability claim against planning advisers, who negligently delayed making an application for planning permission to develop a rural property: in the meantime the planning policy changed, making the application less likely to succeed;
  • successfully defending a criminal QC against an application for wasted costs;
  • defending an auditor against a multi-million pound claim for negligence by a group of clothing import and retail companies relating to stock valuations and currency adjustments;
  • acting for the British Medical Association in defending a professional liability claim brought by a doctor alleging that the BMA failed to advise him correctly in an employment tribunal claim against his former employer;
  • successfully defending a solicitor at trial against a complaint of failing to challenge a will.
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Stephen James Innes
Bar Council Number 41453
VAT registration number 782715995
Complaints policy available on request from 4 New Square