One of ten conveyancing firms accused of professional negligence over advice on a property development in Liverpool has failed to rebuff the action after claimants were allowed to amend their pleadings.

Off-plan buyers lost ‘substantial up-front payments’ on the failure of the development, known as The Rise in Liverpool 6. They are suing Vincents Solicitors Ltd, which acted as their conveyancing solicitors, for breach of duty.

The judgment in Niprose Investments Limited & Ors v Vincents Solicitors Limited said 94 claimants, who between 2017 and 2019 entered into contracts to purchase one or more units off-plan in the proposed residential development, have brought professional negligence claims against ten conveyancing practices. 

Each claimant paid a ‘substantial upfront initial payment’. These deposits totalled more than £6m across more than 100 apartments. Claimants also paid reservation fees and, in some cases, further instalments of the purchase price.

The money was used to finance the development’s marketing and construction. When work stopped in 2019, only a steel-frame structure had been built. The developer went into compulsory liquidation in June 2020.

Vincent acted for 35 clients on the purchase of 50 units, with deposits totalling around £2.7m. The claimants allege they were not properly advised of the risks of investing in the development and are seeking damages for losses resulting from the alleged breaches of duty.

The firm argued the particulars of claim were ‘wholly generic..and largely unparticularised’.

His Honour Judge Hodge KC, sitting as a judge of the High Court, said ‘substantial clarification, and amplification', of the claimants’ case was required. He added: ‘Vincents need to know the particular facts and matters upon which these 35 claimants found their claims against them, so that Vincents can identify, and seek to address, the particular facts in dispute, and focus upon the matters relevant to these claims.

‘At the moment, this exercise is clouded by the use of generic, and "scattergun", particulars of claim, which divert Vincents’ attention away from what is strictly relevant to the case against them, as distinct from other of the defendants, which leave some matters to be inferred, and which leave other facts and matters unpleaded.

‘In my judgment, the court should not strike out a statement of case, or enter summary judgment against a party, without giving the party concerned an opportunity of curing any defects or omissions in their pleaded case, provided, of course, that there is good reason to believe that they will be in a position to do so, and they invite the court to take that course.’

The further hearing of the application was adjourned to give the claimants ‘the opportunity to amend their pleadings in the light’ of the judgment.