The High Court has rejected a claim against national firm Leigh Day from a former client unhappy about the outcome of her father’s inquest. Mrs Justice Andrews agreed with the firm that it was unclear at times even what the claimant was complaining about and that none of the allegations of professional negligence ‘came even close’ to being established.
The claimant was the daughter of an 86-year-old man who died following treatment at a Leicester hospital in 2007. Leigh Day represented Gabriele Shaw at the subsequent three-week inquest, following which the coroner decided that the death was the unintended consequence of a therapeutic procedure and that the patient knew the risks before he agreed to surgery.
Against the advice of her lawyers, Shaw started proceedings for judicial review as a litigant in person, an application which was dismissed by a divisional court.
In Shaw v Leigh Day, Mrs Justice Andrews described the claim as being expressed in ‘extremely broad terms’, where Shaw alleged the firm failed to use the inquest as an opportunity to establish the facts and information that would have aided a subsequent clinical negligence claim.
The judge stressed that it was not enough in negligence cases to show that a different solicitor might have taken a different course. In addition, legal representatives at an inquest could not be held in breach of duty to their client if the coroner determines that certain evidence is not to be admitted or precludes a certain line of questioning from being pursued.
The judge added: ‘It is one of the more extraordinary features of this case that Mrs Shaw was constrained to concede in cross-examination that there was no evidential basis (whether cogent or otherwise) for any of the propositions that she criticised Leigh Day for not having pursued.’
While the judge rejected any suggestion that proceedings were financially motivated, she ruled there was no legitimate basis for criticism of Leigh Day’s performance. The firm had not promised that the claimant would obtain answers to her many questions about her father’s death, nor was it obliged to obtain them.
Criticism of Leigh Day for not challenging assertions made by the trust was ‘both unfair and misguided’. Mrs Justice Andrews ordered that the claimant could not recover any costs from bringing the failed JR challenge.