A property owner can sue his divorce lawyers for negligence, despite his claim needing to be reformulated a judge has ruled. The judge concluded that had more evidence been presented in the divorce hearing about the client’s assets the outcome may have been different.
Riaz Ahmad appointed Clive Wood Solicitors to act on his behalf in his acrimonious divorce from his wife. In the divorce hearing, District Judge Khan awarded Mrs Riaz £465,000 and ordered her former husband to pay their children’s school fees.
District Judge Khan concluded that Mrs Riaz was “an honest and straightforward woman doing her best to assist the court“, while Mr Ahmad’s evidence was “contradictory and sometimes simply improbable” and that he was “a bully seeking to control or dominate Mrs. Riaz.”
Following the settlement, Mr Ahmad started proceedings against Clive Wood and his firm. He alleged that his solicitor had been negligent when he told him that the matter was straightforward, that a lump sum was unlikely to be awarded and that he had not been given sufficient time to review his witness statement. He also alleged that the conduct of his case had been negligent.
He claimed nearly £1.2 million, made up of the additional amount awarded in excess of his offer to his wife, together with consequential losses incurred in selling a property to pay his wife and other costs.
Wood and his firm applied for the case to be struck out, because it had no real prospect of success. They argued that Mr Ahmad’s claim attacked District Judge Khan’s decision and was an abuse of process. They also said that they were not liable for the additional costs incurred by Mr Ahmad as these were outside their duty of care to their client.
His Honour Judge Eyre decided that although parts of Mr Ahmad’s claim should be struck out, nevertheless his claim still had a prospect of success and should proceed. He ruled that the claim was not an attack on District Judge Kahn’s decision. He said there was evidence to show that further material should have been presented in the divorce hearing and that if it had, it may have led to a materially different outcome. He agreed with the defendants that consequential losses claimed by Mr Ahmad fell outside their duty of care and that the claim must be reformulated.
“The judge made it clear that he believed the claimant had obstacles to overcome in establishing his case, but that it should still go ahead as it had a prospect of success,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “It shows that the courts are prepared to allow a case to proceed, even when elements of the claim are flawed.”
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