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27 Nov 2018

Stephenson Harwood successfully defends client's professional negligence claim

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Law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP has advised Mrs Basia Lejonvarn in successfully defending a professional negligence claim brought against her. The legal battle involved a previous first instance decision that was partly overturned in Mrs Lejonvarn's favour by the Court of Appeal. The final trial took place in London in July 2018 and has resulted in the claims of professional negligence against Mrs Lejonvarn being dismissed in their entirety. The decision is likely to have far-reaching implications for the law surrounding a duty of care when professional services are provided gratuitously.

Mrs Lejonvarn, an architectural designer, had offered gratuitous services to Peter and Lynn Burgess, in relation to design and landscaping to the garden of their home in Highgate, North London. When the works, carried out by independent third parties, overran and were allegedly defective, Mr and Mrs Burgess sued Mrs Lejonvarn for in excess of £300,000 in damages.

The High Court found in favour of Mrs Lejonvarn on all counts, with the judgment from Martin Bowdery QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the Technology and Construction Court) citing: "These claims are hopeless and no claim in negligence against the Defendant should have pleaded, let alone pursued."

“We are very pleased with this judgment, in which sense has finally prevailed, after a less than pleasing 2016 first instance judgment that required a trip to the Court of Appeal for it to be corrected,” said Louis Flannery QC, partner and head of arbitration, Stephenson Harwood, who has led the team acting for Mrs Lejonvarn since first instructed in 2014. “This claim should never have been brought, and was entirely without merit. It's a simple case of an act of unpaid assistance given between friends being inappropriately deemed as actionable formal professional advice. If there is blame to be had, it lies wholly with the Claimants themselves, who as the judge correctly found only really fell out with my client over money. When read in the light of the 2017 Court of Appeal ruling, this judgment will give great cause for relief to anyone unfortunate enough to be sued after having volunteered to give gratuitous advice or assistance to friends or acquaintances who might otherwise be unreasonably held accountable for issues beyond the scope of their counsel.”

The Stephenson Harwood team was led by Louis Flannery QC, who was assisted by associates Alina Neal and Amir Mahdavi, Salah Malas (trainee), Shimantika Mandal and Naoise Tan.

 
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