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Professional Negligence

When transactions go wrong, the counter-party may not be the easiest target to pursue. That is often the position in cases of fraud, and any strategy for a claimant in such cases should consider the potential liability of accessories, in particular whether the professionals involved have acted negligently.

PCB has successfully pursued professional negligence claims in those as well as more conventional professional negligence cases. In those cases it can be important to “leave no stone unturned”, where for example pushing for electronic disclosure and third party disclosure may reveal far more about the wrongdoing of the professional than can be obtained from their physical files. Examples of cases include:

  • Acting for claimants in relation to proceedings for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty against a city firm of solicitors in relation primarily to losses caused by a corporate transaction for the purchase of shares in an Italian company, with significant information adverse to the solicitors emerging only through orders for electronic disclosure and from third party disclosure.

  • Acting for the defendant to a claim for fees by a firm of solicitors. The defendant counterclaimed for negligence of the solicitors in their conduct of real estate litigation. The solicitors produced a letter of advice purporting to address the claims of negligence. PCB obtained an order for forensic examination of the computer on which the letter had been created, which led to evidence that the letter had been backdated and that the solicitors had used deletion software in an effort to cover their tracks. In the light of that evidence and an application by PCB for summary judgment on the issue of forgery, the solicitors settled the case.

  • Acting for a group of claimants alleging negligence against a firm of solicitors in respect of variations made to transactions for the acquisition of leases in properties to be developed, where the developments did not take place.

  • Obtaining judgment against a financial adviser who provided advice to Swedish investors, against whom allegations were made of negligent advice in respect of certain investments.

Selected Case Summaries

PCB acted for the claimants in a US$25m claim against a city firm of lawyers alleging professional negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. PCB made an application for extensive electronic disclosure at a time when there was little case law as to when electronic disclosure should be provided. The defendant solicitors alleged that all electronic communications would have been printed and put into hard copy files and that the costs of restoring back-up tapes would be substantial, making the exercise wholly disproportionate. PCB was however able to persuade the court that some electronic searches should be undertaken, which ultimately led to critical evidence being uncovered.

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