Professional negligence

Our professional negligence group advises both claimants and defendants involved in disputes relating to the provision of negligent advice. We advise insurers and insureds as well as claimants with a particular emphasis on lawyers as well as valuers, accountants, tax advisers, investment advisers, construction professionals, surveyors and other professionals. Because we defend negligence claims as well as pursuing others, we benefit from the insight we gain by acting on both sides of the table. We also benefit from the knowledge and experience of the specialist lawyers in our firm, including tax, trust, estates, charities, financial services and family lawyers. We also advise on issues of breach of fiduciary duty, financial product mis-selling, property losses or industry regulation. A typical professional negligence action requires in-depth knowledge and experience of two equally important elements:

  1. The relevant legal principles and legal practice involved in negligence actions, which in the UK involves complex issues in both tort and contract; and
  2. The relevant legal principles and legal practice of the underlying claim, in each case. These can be as wide-ranging as conveyancing, family law, financial services, valuations and anything involving advice given by a professional to their client.

Who we act for

  • We act for insurers, most notably the Bar Mutual in defending claims against barristers, and the Travelers Insurance group in defending claims against solicitors.
  • We also act for individuals or businesses who complain of negligent advice by their professional adviser, whether he be a solicitor, accountant, financial adviser, valuer, or surveyor.
  • We also act for charities and executors against solicitors in particular in relation to allegedly negligent tax advice.  

Working with you

Our professional negligence team contains experts who have on occasion taken claims right through to the Court of Appeal and House of Lords and won them. Further, we have a wealth of expertise within our firm which is immediately available to the professional negligence group and who work with lawyers in those teams extensively when required depending on the subject matter of the underlying claim. This gives us a unique advantage when dealing with claims involving those areas of work and allows us to advise clients in a quick, cost effective and comprehensive manner.

'This team has a strong reputation for its work on professional negligence disputes in the legal sector.'

'The team has had a successful year, having been involved in both settling high-value cases and scoring victories at trial.'

Chambers & Partners 2012

'Withers' attention to detail impressed me.'

'The solicitors are intelligent and dedicated, and really come into their own with trickier sorts of cases.'

'They are incredibly well prepared, they provide an amazing service and they are very responsive.'

Chambers & Partners 2014 & 2015

Recent work

The following are examples of the range of underlying cases we have dealt with:

  • Group Litigation: we acted for two barristers who had been instructed by a firm of solicitors to make an application for a Group Litigation Order (GLO) on behalf of certain miners with claims against their former solicitors for unlawful deductions from compensation paid under the DTI claims handling schemes. The application was refused and the after the event insurers refused to pay the costs liabilities incurred as a result. The solicitors paid the costs liability and then sought to recover it from the Insurers who counterclaimed professional negligence. There was a trial in October 2010 and the judge upheld the claim for costs and dismissed the counterclaim against our clients with indemnity costs.
  • Family law: we acted for a family law barrister who together with the solicitors who instructed him was sued by a former client who alleged that she should have obtained £1m or more in settlement of her claim for ancillary relief against her husband. The case against both defendants was dismissed following trial.
  • Financial advice: we advised a firm of independent financial advisers on a claim in negligence arising from the alleged mis-selling of three life assurance investment bond products and a subsequent claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The case was discontinued following exchange of expert's reports and the complaint to the ombudsman was dismissed. Also, acting on behalf of another firm of financial advisers who were sued by a former client who claimed that an inappropriately high proportion of his funds were invested in equities, that certain funds held in dollars were wrongly/without authority sold, monies that should have been held on deposit were wrongly invested and that the failure to inform the claimant of certain mistakes amounted to deceit. The claim settled at a mediation.
  • Personal injury: we represented a QC and junior counsel, specialising in personal injury who, together with the solicitors who instructed them, were sued in relation to advice to reject a settlement offer of £400,000. The case settled at mediation.
  • Tax: we advised a firm of solicitors who, in advising the executors of a will, allegedly failed to take into account section 103 of the Finance Act 1986. We have also advised a number of firms in relation to failed IHT schemes.
  • Tax: we advised on a claim relating to capital gains tax liability and insurance against potential inheritance tax liability in circumstances where the solicitor negligently advised that the client's parents retained an interest over property transferred to their daughter 5 years previously meaning that no principal private residence relief was available for the daughter and time had not started to run for the purposes of the 7-year period outside of which gifts no longer attract inheritance tax on death.
  • Estate administration: we acted for 15 charities in securing a series of costs orders against an accountant plus disallowance of his fees in relation to the negligent administration of an estate.
  • Trusts: we acted for an individual who was given negligent advice about the tax consequences of transferring assets from one trust to another trust. She was also excluded from benefit of that second trust and made responsible of commercial rent of her London home.
  • Wills: we acted for an executor, who was suing his deceased spouse's solicitors for failing to advise on the US tax consequences arising from her ownership of worldwide assets when providing her with a UK will. 


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