Hypothetical questions for claims of solicitor negligence
In assessing professional negligence claims against solicitors, courts have to address the question of what advice would have been provided to the claimant had he or she not received the negligent information.
This hypothetical question is actually integral to many claims, not least because without an answer it is not possible to make any assumptions about whether loss has been sustained at all.
Case study – SAAMCO
One decision that is relevant to this question is SAAMCO (House of Lords, 1997) in which it was reasoned that a claimant could not recover damages for the whole loss caused by entering a property transaction, but only for the amount of loss calculated as the difference between the surveyor’s negligent valuation and what would have been considered a correct valuation at the time.
This was so even though it is likely that the claimant would never have bought the property in question had he received a correct valuation. The valuation was intended only as advice regarding the value of the property and not whether the claimant should buy it or not.
However, in a professional negligence claim against a solicitor, the question of what constitutes correct advice is rather more complex than in other cases. For example, in a surveyor negligence claim, issues such as correct property valuations can at least be quantified with minimum, medium, and maximum figures.
Case study – Levicom v Linklaters
By way of illustration, in Levicom v Linklaters  Judge Andrew Smith said, “In matters of professional judgment there are a range of views properly held or courses of action properly adopted and [the law] does not generally select which of them is the correct one.”
In practice, this means that courts must ask the question of what advice the defendant would have given had he or she not been negligent. One obvious problem with this approach is that they often ask queries which belong very much to the outer fringes of hypothesis.
For example, the solicitor might not have handled such a matter before and there may not be any evidence suggesting how he or she might have acted professionally.
In the absence of this proof, courts are likely to rely on the reasonable person test and to consider how a similar professional would have acted in the same circumstances.
Professional negligence lawyers in London
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From our offices, we handle professional negligence claims against solicitors from all over the country, ensuring all aspects of a dispute are met with the fullest possible settlement.
For more information about how we may be able to help you in a claim against your solicitor, contact us today.