A Surrey firm has failed to persuade a High Court judge to have allegations involving dishonesty and deceit struck out before trial. In Barrowfen Properties Ltd v Patel & Ors Mr Justice Birss acknowledged that allegations against corporate firm Stevens & Bolton were ‘very grave’ but said they should be tested in court.
The action is one of a number of claims brought in different jurisdictions between members of a wealthy family which holds a network of companies around the world. The first defendant, Girish Patel, is a member of the family and former director of the claimant company Barrowfen, for which Stevens & Bolton acted at one time. It is claimed that the firm breached its fiduciary duties and/or duties of care by acting at the same time for the company and for Patel, despite knowing there was a conflict of interest. The matter is due to go to trial next year.
Barrowfen claims losses adding up to more than £400,000 on the grounds of dishonest assistance, deceit and unlawful means conspiracy.
The firm applied to strike out the claim, stating that the claimant had changed their case a number of times and in significant ways. It said on the dates specified it had ceased to act and so owed no duty to Barrowfen. Important aspects of the claimant’s case were not pleaded, including the alleged conspiracy around Barrowfen being placed into administration.
The judge agreed that aspects of the case had not been pleaded, but said they were not the core of the issue. He added: ‘Stevens & Bolton did owe a duty to Barrowfen at the relevant time, that duty being the duty everyone owes everyone else not to practice deceit.'
He noted: ‘Legal representatives are often put in a difficult position when asked direct questions by their client’s rivals, as this case demonstrates. This is not the trial and all I am concerned with is whether the claimant’s case is sufficient to go to trial.’ The application to strike out was dismissed.