A disgruntled client has failed to take his professional negligence claim against his former lawyers to trial after the court found no basis to continue.
Kamran Naqvi had brought an action for damages of £10.2m against the solicitors and barrister who acted for him in his unsuccessful race discrimination claim against his former employer, Lloyds bank.
Sitting as a deputy High Court judge in Naqvi v Harris Cartier Ltd & Ors, Heather Williams QC approved applications from three defendants for summary judgment as it had no real prospect of success.
Naqvi had been suspended and subsequently dismissed over allegations concerning his relationship with former world heavyweight boxing champion David Haye, a Lloyds client. They centred on the acceptance of gifts and hospitality and undertaking external work for Haye and his company Hayemaker Limited.
Naqvi then instructed Brian Levy, of former London firm Harris Cartier, in relation to internal disciplinary proceedings, and retained him to act in an employment tribunal claim. Proceedings were issued in 2012 for unfair dismissal, discrimination on grounds of race and/or religion, and victimisation. At Levy’s request, barrister Jeffrey Bacon drafted the grounds. Bacon and Levy met with Naqvi where it was agreed to withdraw the claim for religious discrimination. Levy continued to act for Naqvi when he moved to London firm Richard Slade & Co then prepared Naqvi’s witness statement prior to the ET hearing in March 2013.
The tribunal decided in December 2013 that while Naqvi had been dismissed for a potentially fair reason, the procedure adopted and the investigations undertaken were so deficient as to fall outside the range of reasonable responses open to Lloyds. The bank’s failings were of such a degree that belief in the claimant's misconduct was not reasonably held, so the unfair dismissal claim was upheld.
The court was not told the outcome of a subsequent remedy hearing, so did not know what damages were awarded or whether an agreed settlement was arrived at for his unfair dismissal.
In his negligence claim, Naqvi claimed his former legal advisers failed to properly formulate, pursue or present a case of race discrimination, and further alleged failings in the presentation of the quantum of the claim. Taking account his potential six-figure future salary, and on the basis he stood a 70% chance to win the discrimination claim, Naqvi claimed he ought to have been entitled to more than £10m in compensation.
The defendants who made the application, Richard Slade, Bacon and Levy, submitted it was unrealistic to criticise their failure to formulate a claim which Naqvi was not able to identify it with any precision. He submitted it was for his lawyers to ‘join the dots’ on a difficult area of law.
But the judge said the striking feature of the case was that Naqvi did not provide those dots, either in the factual account given to his lawyers, or the concerns he raised about his treatment.
She added: ‘It was not their role to think up complaints he was not making or seek out discrimination claims that had not been raised. Still less, could it be negligent to fail to do so.’ She noted that a fuller investigation into the facts would not add materially, and stated that a claim without a realistic prospect of success ‘should not be permitted to go to trial on the speculative possibility that more may emerge’.
- Harris Cartier, who was placed into voluntary liquidation in May 2014, has filed a defence also contending the claim has no reasonable prospect of success and is an abuse of process; but has not applied to strike out the claim or for summary judgment and played no part in the hearing.