Court Refuses To Widen Retainer For Professional Negligence Claims: Lyons v Fox Williams

Following a recent Court of Appeal case, the Court have ruled that solicitors don’t have to undertake investigative tasks or reports if they have not been asked to do this by their client, despite it possibly being beneficial to the client in question.

The Court of Appeal case in question is that of Lyons v Fox Williams LLP [2018] EWCA Civ 2347, where the Court rejected the professional negligence claims of the former client (Cathal Lyons) of law firm, Fox Williams LLP.

Lyons v Fox Williams – Case Background

The Claimant (Mr Lyons) was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in Russia. My Lyons attempted to claim under his insurances policies (Accidental Death & Dismemberment, and Long-Term Disability) which had been put in place by his employer. Mr Lyons retained the law firm to advise him regarding his claim under the first of these policies – Accidental Death & Dismemberment. Interestingly, the Defendant’s retainer letter did not refer to providing any advice in respect of the Long Term Disability policy.

Mr Lyons’ employer Ernst & Young (“EY”) and their brokers were initially pessimistic in relation to the Accidental Death & Dismemberment cover. The brokers took the position that the loss of only part of his right foot meant that Mr Lyons did not qualify for payment under the terms of the polices relating to “loss of a foot“. No advice was given as to Mr Lyons’ rights under the Long-Term Disability policy.

The Claimant’s case against Fox Williams LLP related to two instances of negligence and he sought damages amounting to £16 million.

Firstly, he believed that the Defendant did not properly advise him on the Long-Term Disability policy which caused him to lose valuable rights as a direct result. However, the Court (both at first instance and appeal proceedings) held that under the retainer that the Defendant did not owe a duty of care to advise Mr Lyons regarding this policy. The retainer only covered the law firm’s obligation to advise the Claimant regarding the Accidental Death & Dismemberment policy and issues relating to misrepresentation, and thus there was no duty to advise him of any risks relating to the Long-Term Disability policy.

Secondly, Mr Lyons claimed for losses relating to the absence of English laws and jurisdiction clause in his exit clause with his former employer, EY. The Judge agreed that Fox Williams LLP failed to properly advise the Claimant in relation to the non-inclusion of English law and jurisdiction clause in the exit agreement but that this failure caused My Lyons no financial loss.

Additionally, the Court of Appeal was asked to consider an additional point not made in the initial Court proceedings ([2016] EWHC 2427 (QB)), whereby the Claimant should have been informed by the law firm to obtain separate advice regarding claims relating to the Long-Term Disability policy. This claim was also rejected by the Court of Appeal.

How Can Nelsons Help?

Daniel BrumptonLyons v Fox Williams is a Partner at Nelsons specialising in professional negligence claims against solicitors and barristers.

For more information, please contact a member of Nelsons’ specialist Professional Negligence team on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.