A solicitor shrugged off responsibility

We had a client, Joan (not her real name), who contacted us very distressed. Her solicitor had issued proceeding without protecting her from the other side’s costs by procuring after-the-event insurance for her. In other words if the case had been lost or she had pulled out she would have been responsible for thousands of pounds worth of solicitors’ fees, her own as well as the other side’s, and this would have financially ruined her and her husband. The effect of the stress caused Joan serious mental health problems and her marriage broke down. In fact her husband, who worked abroad, blamed her for the problems as their solicitor said it was her fault.

What had happened was that Joan and her husband were building a house and the original claim was against the architect. We established her solicitor had not understood the claim correctly and thought the whole building had to be knocked down when actually only part of it did; the other side realised this, which caused the case not to settle. Joan had paid out over £60,000 worth of solicitors’ fees, and they wanted more but she had run out of money; she complained to her solicitor who then refused to do any more work for her! The solicitor used her complaint as an excuse to get rid of her. (We see this regularly.) Her solicitor shrugged off all responsibility.

Our solicitor had to deal with this case very carefully and with skill as Joan was exposed to a life-changing amount of money and was suffering from stress; her financial exposure was increasing all the time the case continued. She had been placed in a very precarious situation by her original solicitor. She could not pull out or afford to take the case all the way to court, as if she pulled out she would have been responsible for paying the other side’s costs. We had to get her a settlement quickly. Not having after-the-event insurance weakened her position and put her at too much risk to take the architect all the way to court, even though the case was now fully understood and strong. The case was now in our solicitor’s safe hands, but it had been devalued by her original solicitor as Joan had no option but to settle quickly so as to manage her financial risk.

We achieved a settlement regarding the architect and recovered some of her solicitors’ fees.