CA reverts to first principles in negligence claim

14 June 2018

A miner’s family was entitled to the compensation they would have received but for the alleged professional negligence of their lawyer, regardless of the accuracy of the initial medical assessment, the Court of Appeal (CA) has held.

Edwards v Hugh James Ford Simey [2018] EWCA Civ 1299 arose from the claims handling scheme for former miners suffering from vibration white finger, under which tens of thousands of ex-miners were compensated.

The claimant had been medically assessed as having symptoms serious enough to be eligible for an additional services claim—under which extra compensation was given for loss of the ability to do basic DIY, gardening, car washing, decorating or similar chores. His lawyers advised that the existence of any co-morbid condition would exclude such a claim, so he did not proceed with it. He later claimed for loss resulting from that allegedly negligent legal advice.

However, the county court held the severity of the claimant’s symptoms had been overstated in the original assessment so the loss was nil. The Court of Appeal overturned the decision, holding that the county court was wrong to revisit the original claim and should have focused on the value of what the claimant lost.

Writing for LexisNexis Legal Analysis, David Willink, barrister at Lamb Chambers, said the case was ‘a useful reminder of what is in issue in a professional negligence claim against solicitors whose alleged negligence is said to have caused a former client to lose or surrender a cause of action. In particular, it emphasises the need to focus on the value of what was lost through the alleged negligence, at the time of the alleged negligence’.