City firm Simmons & Simmons has been granted summary judgment after the High Court rejected ‘hopeless’ claims that it should be held liable for its conduct while representing a client in an ownership and management dispute.
In a judgment published on Friday, judge Andrew Henshaw QC said the claimants in the case showed ‘no reasonable grounds’ for bringing a claim for declaratory relief.
The claim arose out of correspondence sent last year while Simmons & Simmons was acting for a company called United Investment Trading (UIT) in an ongoing dispute.
UIT had been in dispute between with a man named in court documents as John Francis Gregg. The dispute centred on the ownership and management of another company called Bronze Monkey. Both Gregg and UIT claimed ownership of the company and both believed they could act on its behalf.
According to Bronze Monkey and Gregg’s claim, Simmons & Simmons - while representing UIT - wrote on behalf of Bronze Monkey despite having ‘no authority to do so’.
The claim called on the court to prevent further representations from being made, and for the question of who is entitled to represent Bronze Monkey to be an issue of real significance.
According to Simmons & Simmons, the claim was ‘hopeless, abusive, serves no useful or proper purpose and should never have been brought’. The firm insisted it did no more than set out its client’s case on instructions and that ‘the recipients of the relevant letters correctly understood them in those terms’.
In Friday’s judgment Henshaw agreed and said there was ‘no practical purpose or utility which could be served by declaratory relief’.
‘Conversely, the grant of such relief would … risk improperly inhibiting S&S’s ability to represent the interests of its client UIT in its ongoing dispute with Gregg,’ Henshaw wrote.
He added that the claim against Simmons & Simmons was specific to its authority to represent and/or give instructions on behalf of Bronze Monkey.
‘The fact remains that that is not a matter on which S&S as a firm has taken or takes any position, and in reality is not an issue relating to S&S at all,’ Henshaw wrote. He added: ‘There is, properly analysed, no issue between the claimants and Simmons & Simmons as such, and in any event none in relation to which there is any real prospect of declaratory relief being appropriate.’