Drake v Harbour professional negligence claim


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In any professional negligence claim it is necessary to prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached that duty of care and that the breach had causation in the claimant sustaining significant financial loss.However, in some cases where negligence occurs it may not be necessary to meet usual evidential standards in establishing that negligence was the precise mechanism by which loss was sustained - instead it may be necessary only to prove that the damage caused is consistent with what would be expected with the nature of the defendant's negligent work.This is a principle derived from case law in cases such as Drake v Harbour [2008]

Drake v Harbour

In this case, the claimant, Mrs Drake, contracted an electrician, Mr Harbour, to rewire her home. During the time her home was being rewired, she was absent, leaving Mr Harbour in sole charge of the property.However, while she was absent from her home, a fire started in the loft. The electrician had been working, and had set up a festoon cable with light sockets and cables in order to provide temporary lighting.The judge's ruling, at the first instance, determined that the fire had been caused by problems with the temporary lighting system. The electrician was branded negligent on account of his decision to use old cable and his failure to check the integrity of existing cable insulation.In establishing causation the judge applied the legal maxim "res ipsa loquitor" (translated as "the facts speak for themselves"), mainly because the electrician had been in sole control of the property at the time of fire. However, Mr Harbour soon appealed the ruling.During this hearing, the Court of Appeal concluded that on the balance of probability the fire had been caused by the electrician's negligence.Furthermore, the court said that where a claimant had proved that it had sustained loss following negligence, it could infer causation provided the loss was of kind likely to follow the incident of negligence.The Times newspaper summarised the professional negligence claim in the following way: "Where a claimant proved both that a defendant was negligent and that loss ensued which was of a kind likely to have resulted from such negligence, that would ordinarily be enough to enable a court to infer that it was probably so caused, even if the claimant was unable to prove positively the precise mechanism."

Healys professional negligence solicitors

Healys always aims to encourage early settlement of construction and electrician negligence claims, but only if is in the client's best interests to do so. Where settlement cannot be reached, we will take whatever action is necessary in order to conclude a positive resolution.For advice and support from our Brighton and London offices, use our call-back form, call directly on 020 7822 4106, or click through to our individual professional negligence solicitors.

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