An unrepresented claimant has won her appeal against lawyers in a negligence case described by the judge as a 'stark example' of how attempts to hasten a victory go wrong.

Opening his judgment in Anna Christie v Mary Ward Legal Centre and Anor, The Honourable Mr Justice Turner said: ‘There is no shortage of civil cases in which well-intentioned attempts to hasten victory have had the very opposite effect. This case is a stark example of what can happen when things go wrong.’

The case centres on a house sale, which Anna Christie claimed was prompted by negligent advice, after she had accrued a ‘substantial’ service charge debt to her landlord. She sought advice from Mary Ward Legal Centre, which instructed barrister Andrew Dymond. He recommended in writing that Christie should sell the property to pay off the arrears. 

Christie sold her home and paid off the arrears in 2013. In 2019, she commenced proceedings and claimed she was badly advised.

Mary Ward Legal Centre was granted summary judgment that Christie had no real prospect of success in her substantive claim as the firm was 'entitled to rely upon counsel’s advice’. Christie appealed this decision.

For sale sign

Christie was recommended to sell her property to pay off arrears

Source: iStock

However Turner quashed the order.  In his 11-page judgment, he said: ‘Of central importance to the [previous judge's] conclusion was her finding that the first defendant solicitors were “generalist solicitors” and “without specialist experience”. In my view, the question as to the level of expertise to be attributed to any given solicitor in the context of the reliance defence is not necessarily one which can be adjudicated upon with sufficient confidence in the context of a summary judgment application.

‘In this case, the first defendants at least arguably held themselves out as having specialist expertise in housing and debt.' 

Judgment in a separate appeal to the High Court in respect of failed applications in which both defendants argue the claims were statute-barred has yet to be handed down. Turner acknowledged that judgment’s outcome could render his decision academic.

In giving ‘practical observations’ he said it could be ‘advantageous’ for Christie to seek legal advice before continuing with litigation.


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